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"Keep threshold of 75 hospital admissions per day before measures are relaxed” says Professor Van Gucht

Speaking at Tuesday morning’s National Crisis Centre press conference the virologist Professor Steven Van Gucht said that the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 must fall to below an average of 75 per day before their can be any relaxation of the measures designed to curb the spread of the virus. At the end of November last year, the Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) said that hospitalisations falling below an average of 75 per day was one of the prerequisites for a relaxation of the restrictions to be considered. 

Speaking at Tuesday’s press conference Professor Van Gucht said “This threshold was very carefully chosen based on epidemiological models. 75 is a relatively safe threshold in the sense that we would like to be under it before relaxing the measures which we would do step by step. 75 is not too high and allows a certain margin to turn the tide before you end up with the (hospital) system becoming overstretched. The principle is simple: if we react early and strongly enough, it has a greater impact and means that you have to keep up your efforts for not as long”.

But won’t the current cold snap have an influence on the spread of coronavirus? "We know relatively little about this”, Professor Van Gucht said.

"We know that cold weather can encourage the spread of flu viruses. Firstly, this is because cold air is often dry air, and this can facilitate the spread of aerosols. The droplets that we emit become smaller and can float and travel longer distances. Secondly our sinuses are less resistant when the weather is cold. But once again there is a lot of speculation about this and relatively little hard evidence. Furthermore, when the weather is cold, we are typically indoors, which increases the chance of infection”.


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