Health minister: No guarantee lockdown can be avoided

In a reaction to the continuing rise in the main indicators of the Covid-19 epidemic, federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke has declined to rule out a new lockdown.

Speaking on VTM News on Sunday, Vandenbroucke said he was not ready to guarantee anything.

“The only thing I can guarantee is that if we work together and all do the same things, we have the best chance of achieving what we want to achieve: to keep the schools open, keep businesses working and allow the hospitals to cope.”

Vandenbroucke was speaking as today’s Covid-19 bulletin reported increases in the number of positive tests (up 89%), more cases per capita (+102%), an increase of the number of positive tests as a ratio of all tests (+22.5%), more hospital admissions (+66%), more patients in intensive care (+6.6%) and more deaths (+7.6%).

For Dr Erika Vlieghe, an advisor to the national security council, the trend is not only “dramatic” but also “terrifying”.

“If we already had a corona barometer, it would now be orange. But our country is clearly on its way to red,” she warned, speaking on the VRT’s De Zevende Dag.

“It’s been moving fast, especially over the last few days,” she said.

“The curve has a completely exponential character again. It’s not going well, we must say that in all fairness. We shouldn’t scare people, but we should tell it like it is. And then try to do something about it.”

Meanwhile the hospitals are beginning to buckle under the double strain of rising corona figures at the same time as dealing with patients whose treatments had to be postponed at the outset of the epidemic.

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“The problem can be seen in all Brussels hospitals,” said Professor Marc Noppen, CEO of UZ Brussel.

“This also has repercussions for health-care that is not linked to the corona virus. It causes misery afterwards. There is extreme pressure on the staff. Due to the postponed care, there was never really a moment of rest last summer. And now the coronavirus is back.”

The effect, he said, is already being felt in the level of absenteeism and outright burnout among staff.

The staff problem was stressed, also on De Zevende Dag, by Margot Cloet, director of the Icaro Care Network. A new lockdown may not be as far off as people might think, she warned.

“If no additional measures are taken against the coronavirus, then I’m afraid that the health-care system at a given moment will no longer be able to cope.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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