"Omicron forecasts are far too negative"

The future projections of the omicron variant are too negative: we have better times ahead than feared, says the Belgian infectiologist Jeroen van der Hilst of the Jessa Hospital in Hasselt (Limburg). 

Belgium is behind countries like the U.K., Denmark and the Netherlands where the surge of omicron is concerned, with Belgian experts monitoring the developments across the border. While a spike in the number of new cases is being seen, it is still unclear what this will mean for hospitalisations. 

Van der Hilst told "Het Belang van Limburg" that the scenarios have bene too dark. "In Denmark, the Netherland and the U.K. it was said that thousands would end up in intensive care due to omicron. It was assumed that the protection against severe illness would drop to the same extent as the protection against a new infection, but this was a crucial mistake." 

In other words: we will be better off than experts fear(ed), claims Van der Hilst. "The new variant may escape our first protection system of antibodies, it is still being targeted by our second defence system (of T-cells)." This explains why so many people get infected without a similar surge in hospitalisations, he adds. 

Still, Van der Hilst thinks the stringent corona measures in Belgium are useful. "Even if not so many people get seriously ill, they can still contract the virus, which means they would have to self-isolate. This can pose a threat to our care system and our economy. Look at London, where 10 percent of hospital staff is out of work." 

Top stories