Coronavirus infections decrease for first time since Christmas

Coronavirus infections decrease for first time since Christmas
Credit: Belga

The number of new coronavirus infections being recorded in Belgium has decreased for the first time since Christmas, however, the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations continues to rise.

Between 23 and 29 January, an average of 46,481 new coronavirus infections were identified every day — a 6% decrease on the previous seven days, according to the figures published by the Sciensano Public Health Institute on Wednesday morning.

The day record since the start of the pandemic was officially reported last Monday (24 January), when more than 73,000 infections were recorded, but since then, the number of new cases has been dropping rapidly (on 29 January, 23,000 cases were reported).

The Omicron variant accounts for almost all cases in Belgium (99%).

The average number of PCR tests taken per day in the same period decreased slightly (-2%) to 112,142. The increase in the positivity rate also slowed down drastically for the first time in weeks, and now sits at 45.5%, meaning almost half of all tests undertaken are positive.

However, the number of deaths recorded on a daily basis has increased slightly. During the same period, an average of 27 Covid-19 patients died per day, up by 3% since last week. Total deaths in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic amount to 29,083.

Situation in Belgian hospitals

Between 26 January and 1 February, an average of 364.4 patients suffering from Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals per day — an increase of 10% on the seven days previous.

This number reflects how many people end up in hospital specifically because of the virus, not people who end up in hospital with another condition and then test positive for the coronavirus. This figure is expected to decrease several days to weeks after the number of infections has dropped.

On Tuesday, a total of 4,156 people were in Belgian hospitals due to an infection, 75 more than on Monday, and the highest number since November last year. This number does include all patients who tested positive for Covid-19, including those who were first admitted with a different condition.

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The number of patients in a life-threatening condition remained relatively stable for weeks, but is now starting to increase, as 419 people are being treated in intensive care (+14), while 177 (-3) patients are on a ventilator.

A UK analysis found that the risk of hospitalisation is lower for Omicron cases after both two and three doses of vaccine, with a 77% to 85% reduction in the risk of hospitalisation after three doses compared to unvaccinated people who are infected with the Omicron variant.

As of Monday, almost 8.87 million people are fully vaccinated — 90% of Belgium’s adult population and 77% of the total population.

Meanwhile, more than 6.56 million people have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine, representing 71% of over-18s and 57% of the entire population. The majority of adults should have had the opportunity to get a booster dose by March 2022.

The reproduction rate (Rt) has once again decreased to 1.06. This figure represents the average number of people that contract the virus from each infected person, and when it is above 1, it means that the epidemic is gaining ground in Belgium.

The incidence (the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants) continues to rise and now sits at 5,821 over the past 14 days.

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