Van Gucht: ‘More important than ever that we are now slowing down the virus’

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Virologist Steven Van Gucht called for caution at the Crisis Center press conference now that the number of confirmed infections continues to rise sharply. Group immunity against the virus is still a long way off, he says.

Between 8 and 14 September, the average number of new corona infections rose sharply to 978 per day. That is an increase of 74 percent compared to the previous seven days when, according to the most recent data, there were an average of 562.6 infections per day.

“The pace is accelerating,” said Van Gucht. “Both the number of infections and the hospital admissions are now doubling every eight to nine days, a few days ago this doubling time was still twelve days.”

The past week there were four days with more than a thousand infections. There is an increase in all age groups. ‘It is true that we still find the most cases in people in their twenties, but we also see a clear increase in children. The number of confirmed infections has doubled in the past week in the ten to twenty year olds. That also happened with the over-60s. That is not good news. Let us remain particularly vigilant in contacts between the young and the elderly. ‘

Over the past week, an average of more than 30,000 tests were performed per day. ‘Of all those tests, 3.2 percent gave a positive result. Two weeks ago this was still 2.5 percent. So we see that the virus is circulating more. The increase cannot be explained solely by the fact that we are testing more. ‘ According to Van Gucht, the strongest increase took place in the province of Li├Ęge.

The increase in hospital admissions does not yet translate into an increase in the number of corona deaths. “That’s a ray of hope.”

Van Gucht: ‘It is now more important than ever that we slow down the spread of the virus. Keep your distance, wear a mask where necessary, stay at home when you feel ill and limit the number of people you have close contact with and apply this with extra caution to the elderly and people with poor health. ‘

Habits

Spokesperson Yves Stevens said that the new corona virus means that we have to learn new habits and automatisms. ‘We have already adjusted our behavior in recent months, for example we no longer shake hands. Showing respect is also part of our daily activities, such as wearing a mouth mask correctly and washing hands. Everyone is part of the solution, we should not wait for the next Security Council. In recent weeks, we may have reverted to our precorona habits a bit. Now is the time to take up our responsibility again. In some ways we can avoid new dramas. ‘

Studies

The virologist also provided an update on two serological studies looking for antibodies in the blood. One study analyzes samples from blood donors. ‘About 5 percent appears to have built up antibodies, this share has remained fairly stable since April 2020. We must interpret the results carefully. This concerns a specific group of people between the ages of 18 and 75 who are usually in good health and do not show any symptoms a week before the donation. ‘

A second study follows a group of 850 health workers in the hospitals. Their blood is tested monthly. ‘This shows that the percentage of health workers with antibodies has not changed since April. At the end of August this is still hovering around 8 percent. Antibodies were found in 81 of the health workers, five or six percent had developed no symptoms. A small minority builds up antibodies without symptoms. In only 2 of the 81 people with antibodies, these disappeared over time. These two individuals had developed only mild symptoms, namely headaches. This seems to indicate that antibodies can still remain present for a longer period of time. ‘

Conclusions: the Belgians have been able to keep the virus spread well under control and the studies show that we are still a long way from herd immunity. ‘For that more than half of the population must have antibodies, most estimates assume that it must be as much as 70 percent.’

Should people with a runny nose or sore throat also get tested?

The symptoms of covid-19 can be very diverse, Van Gucht said. ‘The really typical complaints are shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulty breathing, loss of smell and taste, cough, fever. Then you also have a category that only develops mild complaints. This could be a sore throat. Exceptionally, it can also be a runny nose. When people develop one of the typical complaints, it is important that they stay at home and get tested. When the symptoms are more vague, it is important that at least two symptoms are present. For example, a sore throat in combination with a headache. Then it is best to stay at home and contact the doctor. ‘

All figures related to corona in our country can here being consulted.

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