BELGA

Biostatistician predicts turning point around 1 November

The number of coronavirus infections in Belgium continues to rise considerably and measures have been taken to try an avert serious capacity issues in our health care system. It has been predicted that at this rate the maximum capacity of 2,000 beds on intensive care wards in the country’s hospitals will have been reached. However, the man that predicted the upturn in coronavirus cases during the summer, the biostatistician Kurt Barbé says that the prediction that our hospitals’ intensive care wards will be full in just over 3 and a half weeks is according to “the most pessimistic model”. 

The academic from Brussels’ Dutch-medium Free University VUB adds that “We have already been able to turn things around twice so there is no reason why we couldn’t do so again”?

Professor Barbé believes that we should start to see a turnaround in the upward trend around 1 November.

Kurt Barbé is part of a team lead by Professor Niel Hens that uses mathematical models to predict the number of hospital admission that can be expected in the coming weeks. He posts regular updates of him and his team’s predictions on his Facebook page.

During the week from 13 to 19 October hospital admissions were almost double what they were during the previous week. There are currently 2,774 COVID-19 patients in Belgian hospitals, of whom 446 are on intensive care wards.

The virologist Steven Van Gucht has said that by the end of the week there will be more than 500 COVID-19 patients on the intensive care wards of Belgian hospitals. Without measures being taken there would by 2,000 COVID-19 patients in intensive care by mid-November.

"Whereas at the start you saw a doubling every 14 to 15 days this is now every 8 days. So, measures are needed to ensure that the situation doesn’t spiral out of control. Het is indeed the case that you could reach full capacity by 15 November, but that is according to the most pessimistic model”.

"This is just one possible path. However, our behaviour and measures taken have a big impact on the evolution of the curves. We have managed to turn things around twice, the first time in March and the second time during the summer. There is no reason to think that we couldn’t do it again”. 

Turnaround will become evident around 1 November

Professor Barbé points out that it always takes at least two weeks before measures start to have an impact on hospital admissions. So, it won’t be until the end of the month until the effects of the measures that came into force on Monday become apparent.

"I expect to start to see a turnaround sometime between 25-26 October and 1 November”.

"The slowdown could start from then. The figures will continue to increase but this will be slower each day. We will just have to wait and see if the exponential growth can be stopped and e reach a plateau”.

The biostatistician adds that it is not yet clear what will happen once the peak has been reached.  "There are models that say the growth will continue for a little longer, while others say that  t it falls more quickly. However, that is all further in the future”. 

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