Belgian Covid-19 hospitalisations rise back to pre-lockdown level

Medical staff treat Covid-19 patients in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Belgium in April 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - Belgium on Thursday (Nov 4) reported a jump in Covid-19 infections, and hospitalisations rose back to levels that forced a lockdown in October 2020, as the US advised against travelling to the host of headquarters for the EU and Nato.

Data from Belgium's Sciensano health institute showed 6,728 daily new cases on average in the last 14 days, up 36 per cent from the previous week.

An average of 164 patients with Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals daily in the last seven days, a 31 per cent increase, and 343 coronavirus patients were in intensive care.

Belgium went into its second coronavirus lockdown in October 2020, a few days after recording similar hospitalisation numbers.

On Monday, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) added Belgium to its highest risk level, discouraging international travel there for those not fully vaccinated.

"Because of the current situation in Belgium, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants," it said.

Other European Union countries on the US maximum Covid-19 risk level include Austria, Croatia, Greece and the Baltic countries.

"I thought that with the vaccinations everything would be solved, but it persists," said a Brussels supplier Erik Verpuylt. "We will have to slowly accept the coronavirus as a kind of bad flu."

More than 8.6 million people, or 74 per cent of Belgium's total population, have been fully vaccinated, meaning no new lockdowns are being discussed. But the country has eased face mask requirements in recent months and is now facing a fresh spike in infections as winter nears.

"The majority of the people being hospitalised are people who are not vaccinated or (only) partially vaccinated," said Inge Neven, crisis manager responsible for Covid-19 response in Brussels.

"The people that are in intensive care are almost exclusively people who have not been vaccinated."

So far in the nearly two years of the pandemic, Belgium has had one of the world's highest per capita mortality rates, mostly due to deaths in care homes in the first wave.

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