Belgium says COVID-19 situation now worse than spring wave

Marine Strauss, Reuters

Posted at Oct 19 2020 10:29 PM

A sign is pictured at a restaurant, forced to close for four weeks, after a Belgian federal government decision in order to tackle a surging second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country, in Brussels, Belgium October 19, 2020. Johanna Geron, Reuters

BRUSSELS - The health situation in Belgium is worse than in March during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with cases of infection reaching new highs and the number of people in hospital doubling each week, officials said on Monday.

"The situation is serious. It is worse than on March 18 when the lockdown was decided," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Belgian television RTL-Info.

To slow the second wave of coronavirus the government has ordered bars and restaurants across the country to close for four weeks. Most employees must work from home and a night-time curfew will start from midnight on Monday.

The number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs), which stood at 412 on Sunday, is doubling every eight to nine days - and half of those are on ventilation.

Meanwhile, the number of patients in hospitals is doubling every week. On Oct. 17, 351 people were admitted to a hospital, more than half of the peak of 629 on March 28.

Health Ministry spokesman Yves Van Laethem told a news conference the number of patients in intensive care will rise above 500 this week.

"Whatever the impact of the measures, we will have 1,000 patients in intensive care by the end of this month," he said.

"Thanks to the measures, and hoping for their rapid impact, we should be able to avoid the mathematical projection of 2,000 patients in mid-November. If we did, we would be at the maximum level of intensive care beds planned for COVID patients."