With 657.9 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks, Belgium now sits below Bulgaria (658.0/100,000), but has slightly more cases than Romania (592.5/100,000).
“Belgium now ranks 14th in Europe in terms of the number of infections”, said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht during a press conference on Wednesday. “In many other countries, infections are decreasing or even rising slightly. However, the number of patients in our hospitals is still very high and higher than in most other countries,” he warned.
Europe’s hardest-hit country is currently Luxembourg (1,241.6 cases/100,000 inhabitants), followed by Austria (1,069.5/100,000). In third and fourth place are the Czech Republic (1,002.7/100,000), and Slovenia (939.7/100,000).
This meteoric shift from Belgium is difficult to explain, according to Van Gucht. “We do not have a clear explanation for this for the time being, but it is an important signal that we will follow this closely in the coming days,” he said, urging people to remain careful.
“In any case, this slowdown is not the result of the reopening of schools,” Van Gucht underlined, “because it is still much to early to be able to see the effects of this.” It is also not linked to the expansion of the testing strategy, as testing of asymptomatic people only resumes next Monday.
Belgium, however, is set to return to a more vigorous testing strategy from next week, following an initial decision to stop testing people without symptoms and returnees from high-risk travel zones amid as labs buckled under a surge of new coronavirus cases.
This, according to Sciensano virologist Yves Van Laethem, risked pushing new infection figures back up by 10% – which would have an impact on rankings. As with all changes, this will not be instantly felt but could be a topic of discussion in the approaching meeting of the consultative committee at the end of the month.