“In Flanders population density is double the level in Wallonia. We know the virus loves people to be in close proximity in order to gain round.”
International traffic that has always been more important in northern Belgium also plays a role:
“Flanders has large ports and big factories. It’s a region where an awful lot of people pass through”.
Different attitudes and behaviour with regard to the wearing of face coverings may also be a factor.
“My colleagues tell me face coverings were more widely worn in Wallonia even when they were not obligatory. Greater awareness of the situation in Italy and Spain may have been a factor. But this all needs to be researched.”
The City of Antwerp is hardest hit in Flanders. Prof Van Damme points to the presence of 190 different nationalities, big international companies, a large population and people living close together.
“You can quickly infect people when you’re taking about a virus that is passed on via droplets.”
Prof Van Damme warns that Antwerp may be the first but the situation could easily spread to large conurbations like Brussels and Liege.
“The virus is gaining ground across Europe. Other regions could swiftly turn orange too!”