The Delta variant of the coronavirus, previously known as the Indian variant, could become a dominant strain in Belgium in the coming weeks, virologist Steven Van Gucht warned during a Crisis Centre press conference on Friday.
The strain now accounts for 6.1% of all new cases in Belgium, in comparison with 3.9% last week.
“The Delta variant could become dominant in the next coming weeks, however, as long as absolute infections remain low and the vaccination campaign remains successful, its impact may remain limited,” Van Gucht said.
He added that, in general, the coronavirus situation in Belgium remains favourable, as the number of daily new cases, deaths and hospitalisations continue to decline, except for in Brussels, where it has increased slightly in the previous weeks.
Van Gucht also pointed out that the situation both in schools, where the number of staff and students who become infected with the virus remains low, as well as in residential care centres, continues to be positive.
“The summer weather, vaccination and our behaviour have all played a big role in this, and with due caution, this may continue. If the decline keeps going like this, we could drop below 100 covid patients in ICU by mid-July,” Van Gucht said.
As the epidemiological situation in the country continues to improve, the Consultative Committee, which will meet on Friday afternoon, is expected to give the green light to planned relaxations starting from 1 July, and ease restrictions on social bubbles.
However, Van Gucht highlighted that vaccination is still far from complete (51% of all people living in Belgium have had their first dose of the vaccine and almost one-third have been fully vaccinated), which means that “many people are still not protected.”
“Increasing cases in the United Kingdom show that this positive trend can be reversed despite summer and vaccination,” Van Gucht said.
Research shows that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is more contagious, and it is spreading rapidly across the United Kingdom, where is already accounts for 90% of all new cases.
During Friday’s Consultative Committee, the various governments are expected to discuss whether additional travel restrictions are needed for people coming from a country where the Delta variant is prominent, according to De Standaard.