“The sooner we act, the easier it will be to turn this around” biostatistician says

In recent days the figures relating to the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium have taken a turn for the worse. The number of new infections has been rising for around a week now and today (Friday) the average number of daily hospital admissions rose for the first time in weeks. The biostatistician Geert Molenberghs says that we need to follow the situation closely and that there is no reason to believe that the figures will simply start falling again in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the infectious diseases expert Erika Vlieghe warns that the situation is precarious as a large number of people have still not been fully immunised against coronavirus.

Belgium is not alone. The number of coronavirus infections is increasing across Europe. Week on week the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in Belgium has increased by 78%. Meanwhile, for the first time in weeks the number of people with COVID-19 that are being admitted to the country’s hospital has also risen (by 19%).

Professor Molenberghs told VRT News that "First of all we have the highly infectious Delta variant that currently accounts for two thirds of all infections in the country. Certainly, in conditions in which fewer measures are in force, such as face coverings and social distancing it can spread very quickly”.

"Secondly we are in a period with a lot of travel. Among people that return from a trip abroad 2.5% test positive. Among those returning from Spain this even 4%. This is 1% among those tested that have remained here. This shows the net impact of travel”.  

Can we turn the tide?

Professor Molenberghs says that this all depends on how we react. “The sooner we adapt our behaviour, the easier it will be to turn things around”.

The biostatistician believes that we have little choice.

"There is no reason to believe that the figures here will spontaneously start to fall here in a couple of weeks”

The rising figures could serve as a wake-up call. "We saw this in the past. People don’t necessarily need a regulatory framework. If we alter our behaviour everything could be alright”.

But what if extra measures are needed?

"This is something that will be a political decision. If something does have to be done then you will need to look at the situations in which the virus spreads very quickly, places where people get together without too many restrictions. You could consider limiting this or at least not allowing any more than is currently permitted”.

Professor Molenberghs warns that although the percentage of Flemings that have received one dose of coronavirus vaccine is high “We shouldn’t forget that only just over one third of people have been fully immunised. Two-thirds are not fully immunised, also among the older generations. Moreover, if there is a high level of virus in circulation those that have been vaccinated can also become ill and end up in hospital". 

Professor Erika Vlieghe: "Increase is more rapid than expected”

The infectious diseases expert Professor Erika Vlieghe told VRT News that the rise in coronavirus infections in Europe is more rapid than had been expected. Professor Vlieghe cites the Delta variant and Euro 2020 and the travel that the football tournament has brought with it as the causes.

"We are moving in the right direction with the vaccination campaign, but it will continue during the whole of the summer. Until then we will need to remain cautious. The relaxation of the measures has been very quick, and this gives the impression that we can’t be harmed. However, the virus is still there and is even stronger due to the new variant”.


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