Are we at the start of a third wave in Belgium? “I allow myself to call it a wave”, comments Yves Van Laethem

Between February 23 and March 1, there were an average of 148.6 hospital admissions per day, a 20% increase from the previous reporting period. In total, 1,936 people are hospitalized due to Covid-19, including 410 patients treated in intensive care, according to figures from the Sciensano Public Health Institute updated Tuesday morning.

Between February 20 and 26, 2,394.4 new contaminations were detected on average per day, up 12% from the previous week.

The Crisis Center press conference

“This is not a third wave,” said Yves Van Laethem, interfederal spokesperson for Covid-19 on Tuesday at a press conference by Sciensano and the Crisis Center. However, worrying signs are observed and we should not “let the tree hide the forest.” We must continue to look for the reasons ”for the increases observed in the indicators of the Covid-19 epidemic and strictly respect the measures so that the specter of the third wave definitely recedes.

We are crossing a “stormy area and we do not yet know when the sky will clear up” but glimmers of hope are emerging, according to the virologist. Hospitalizations remain worrying but the increase in new cases seems to be slowing, he said.

New contaminations thus increased by 12% in one week, a smaller increase than the previous days when it was around 25%. The increase in cases is observed in all age groups except in those over 80 (-3%) and over 90 (-27%).

The main positive point is to be found in the situation of nursing homes and care (MRS): deaths and hospitalizations have dropped drastically, thanks to the vaccination campaign which is ending. At the end of 2020, 19.2% of inpatients were from MRS, a rate that has dropped to 5% today. The decreases are consistent with the administration of the first and especially the second doses of the vaccine, said Van Laethem.

Deaths have also fallen, by around 68%. This has an impact on the total deaths, which have fallen by 36% in one week, with an average of 23 people succumbing to Covid-19 per day. The impact of vaccination is also being felt, with a drastic drop in the number of deaths among the elderly. Thus, the number of deaths among those over 85 fell by 51% in one week and that of people aged between 75 and 84 by 32%. In the youngest, no change is observed.

Hospitalizations are increasing across the country. There is now an average of 149 admissions per day, which represents a 20% increase in one week. However, we have been on a plateau of 100 to 150 daily hospitalizations for many months. “A peak of 204 admissions was observed last Friday, which is a high number but fortunately, the latest figures do not show a continuation of this increase”, analyzed Yves Van Laethem. The increase in hospitalizations actually follows the increase in new cases observed in recent times. About 6% of contaminations lead to hospitalization.

The interfederal spokesperson also swept aside with the back of his hand that this increase in admissions can only be explained by the outbreaks detected within hospitals: “several factors are at play,” he stressed.

In total, 1,936 beds are occupied in hospitals by patients suffering from Covid-19 (+ 12% in one week), including 410 in intensive care units (+ 18%). The highest occupancy in intensive care is noted in most provinces but the most marked increase is observed in the province of Antwerp, said the interfederal spokesperson. The intensive care occupancy rate is 21%, that is, 21% of patients hospitalized due to the coronavirus are in intensive care. This rate was 18% at the beginning of February.

Eleven percent of patients require respiratory assistance, which marks a slight increase since the beginning of February but the proportion “remains within the classic numbers that we have known, globally between 8 and 15%”.

However, some pressure is being felt on hospitals, still busy catching up with the care that could not be provided due to successive confinements, warns Mr. Van Laethem.

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