Health minister says there are now more than 500 COVID-19 patients on ICUs

The Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) has said in a television interview that the number of COVID-19 patients on the intensive care wards of the country’s hospitals now exceeds 500. The figure of 500 beds occupied is a symbolic one as it represents 25% of ICU capacity in Belgium. Although the public health science institute Sciensano does not publish figures on the pandemic on Sundays and Mondays, Mr Vandenbroucke was able to tell viewers to the lunchtime news programme on the commercial television channel VTM that there are currently 516 with COVID-19 on the intensive care wards of the country’s hospitals. 

Under normal circumstances ICU capacity in Belgium is 2,000 beds. However, staff shortages mean that 117 of these beds are currently out of use.  Mr Vandebroucke explained that many hospital staff are off work as they are either exhausted from the excess workload or have COVID-19 themselves.

The Federal Health Minister added that there needs to be better enforcement of the measures that are in place to curb the spread of virus. Mr Vandenbroucke pointed to a pilot project on Leuven’s (Flemish Brabant) Oude Markt. There those wishing to visit the many hospitality outlets on the square go to a central point to get their Covid Safe Tickets (CST) checked and are then give a bracelet showing that they have been checked. After that they can enter the bars on the square with out having to constantly show their CST as the bar staff can easily see the bracelet around their wrists. 

Discotheques and night clubs

Mr Vandenbroucke went on to say that the Covid Safe Ticket will no longer suffice if discotheques are to remain open. The Federal Health Minister believes that only people that have been fully immunised should be allowed into discotheques and night clubs.

“And moreover, when there is so much virus in circulation you need to ask yourself whether or not people that have been vaccinated should not be asked to provide a negative test result as well”.

Mr Vandenbroucke also reaffirmed his call for children above the age of 9 to be subject to the mandatory wearing of face covering where applicable. The Flemish Government opposes this. Currently the rules on face coverings apply from the age of 12.


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