Hard-hit Belgium sees light at end of viral tunnel

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BRUSSELS (AP) – Belgian health authorities are convinced that the second wave of hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 has peaked in the hard-hit country.

Speaking at a press conference by the coronavirus crisis center on Monday, virologist Yves Van Laethem said around 400 people had been hospitalized due to complications from the coronavirus on Sunday, up from 879 on November 3.

“Subject to an unpleasant surprise,” the peak in hospital admissions was reached that day, Van Laethem said.

Some 6,948 patients are currently being treated in Belgian hospitals following infection with COVID-19. That’s about 500 less than on November 3.

To break the chain of contamination, Belgium has returned to partial lockdown measures, including the closure of non-essential shops, bars and restaurants, as well as the extension of the autumn school holidays.

The measures appear to have had an impact, as the number of intensive care patients also tends to stabilize, Van Laethem said. As much of Europe battled skyrocketing infection rates, there were fears last month that Belgium would reach its maximum capacity for COVID-19 patients in intensive care by mid-November.

To prevent a collapse of the health system, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said last month that the number of beds available in ICUs for COVID-19 patients would be increased to 2,300. On November 3, 1,469 patients were hospitalized in intensive care.

Although some intensive care units across the country are at maximum capacity, Van Laethem said: “There is a trend in the right direction.

Belgium also saw a 40% decrease in new daily infections in the past seven days compared to the previous week.

“The pressure is still extremely high on the ground, but there is a wave of sun on the horizon, we should see a stabilization, and maybe a decrease in the number of patients from the middle or the end of this. week, ”added Van Laethem.

More than 13,000 people have died from causes linked to COVID-19 in Belgium, a country of 11.5 million inhabitants. Belgium had one of the highest death rates during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring. This fall, it was for a while the European country with the highest number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 population.

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Follow the coverage of the AP pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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