Al Drago / Reuters
At a recent press conference, President Trump highlighted a bar graph showing the number of coronavirus deaths per capita far beyond all the others. It was not Italy or Spain, the countries with the highest number of deaths in Europe – but Belgium.
Meanwhile, the chart places the US rate under six European countries.
The bill enraged Belgian government minister Denis Ducarme, who called it “macabre” and “zero-level” politics for Trump to suggest that Belgium’s numbers are so poor and “all is well” for states -United. “Our counting method [COVID-19 deaths] is as exhaustive as possible! ” he tweeted in French.
“Our counting method is as exhaustive as possible. When @realDonaldTrump proceed to a macabre classification by pointing the finger at Belgium to give the impression that everything is fine in the United States, I find it disgraceful, the zero level of politics ” @Le_Bux @ LesNews24 # COVID19
– Denis Ducarme (@ducarmedenis) April 21, 2020
Ducarme is right – but Trump’s picture was not wrong.
Belgium has climbed to the top of the dismal ranking because the authorities have decided to be radically transparent, if perhaps a little speculative, on the assessment of the new coronavirus. They include not only deaths for which the virus is confirmed, but also those suspected of being linked, whether or not the victim has been tested.
On Wednesday, Belgium, with a population of over 11.4 million, counted a total of 6,262 deaths due to COVID-19 – around 540 per million citizens – and more than half of these deaths were occurred in nursing homes. Of these 52%, only 4.5% were confirmed as infected, but all are counted in the national count.
Other countries, such as the United States, are still trying to manage this situation.
Belgian authorities were pressured to change methods due to the negative perception. Even Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès hinted that the tally had been exaggerated. But Emmanuel André, spokesperson for the government’s emergency coronavirus task force, is not excused. He insists that other governments are underestimating deaths from the virus and, in fact, he said at a press conference on Monday, “more and more countries are starting to copy the model Belgian surveillance… which allows us to measure the gravity of the situation. “
“When you don’t know, it’s harder to act,” he says.
Experts at Wednesday’s briefing said the country likely reached the peak for coronavirus on April 12. On Friday, a special task force is expected to unveil a strategy for phasing out the lockdowns that have been in place since March 18.