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Virologist speaks of “uncertainty” in the light of the latest figures on the COVID-19 pandemic

At Friday morning’s National Crisis Centre press conference, the virologist Professor Steven Van Gucht said that the latest figures on the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium show that “The rays of light we have seen over the past few weeks have given way to some uncertainty. The engine driving the fall is starting to stall and we are currently not seeing a sharp fall in the figures. The infection figures are rising again, while hospital admissions are down slightly, but still insufficiently to remove the pressure on the hospitals”. 

Professor Van Gucht also points to the influence that the public holiday on Easter Monday had on the figures. “If we don’t include Mondays in the calculations then the trend is still down slightly at -5%. Despite the Easter Monday effect there is a good downward trend among children and teenagers. The figures are down 22% and 6% respectively compared with the previous week. At 18% the largest portion of infections is now among people in their 20s”.

Professor Van Gucht also spoke about the future relaxations of the restrictions announced on Wednesday. They will give us greater freedom to enjoy activities in the open air from late April/May and extra scope for indoor activities from June. The relaxation of the restrictions is conditional on goals relating to vaccination levels and the occupation of ICU beds having been attained.

"This plan is achievable. The current measures remain essential in order to bend the curve. In time vaccination will help, but for the time being vaccination levels are too low for them to have a substantial impact. Don’t forget that the hospital patients are currently middle-aged people and younger pensioners. Of these 20% to 30% have no underlying conditions. It will still be a few weeks yet before these groups will have been vaccinated. Limit your contacts. Arrange to meet outside. Get tested even if you only have mild cold symptoms”.

The number of coronavirus tests that have been carried out has significantly fallen during the past few weeks. "From an average of 70,000 to 40,000 per day, while the percentage of positive tests is at its highest level in 5 months with almost 10% testing positive. This means that a lot of infections are going undetected”, Professor Van Gucht said.  

 

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