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2020 is deadliest year in Belgium since second world war

10:32 15/12/2020
From Flanders Today

Some 15,000 more people have died this year in comparison to an average year in Belgium, making it the worst year for mortality since the Second World War. The deadliest months were in April and November, both in the middle of the first and second waves of coronavirus infections.

Still, the deadliest month on record since the war remains February of 1960, when 15,000 people died of a flu virus. “People didn’t realise at the time how deadly that virus was because there were no figures available,” VUB demographics professor Patrick Deboosere told VRT.

The second deadliest month on record since the war is April of this year, while the third is January 1951, again from a flu virus. Last month comes in at number four.

Deboosere joins virologists in their concern about the stabilisation of current coronavirus figures, which have stopped falling. “If the death toll remains at around 100 per day in the coming weeks,” he said, “then the second wave could become deadlier than the first wave.”

In Belgium, 17,902 people have died from Covid-19 so far. There are currently 2,781 people in hospitals, with 627 of them in intensive care units.

While the number of hospitalisations continues to fall since stricter measures came into force on 2 November, the rate at which they are falling has slowed down considerably over the last couple of weeks. This, together with the number of positive tests over the last seven days increasing slightly on the week before, is causing concern among virologists.

They are particularly worried about the upcoming Christmas school holidays, during which many Belgians plan to travel abroad. Nearly every European country at this point is in a red zone, meaning it is strongly advised not to travel there.

Travellers returning from any other country in whatever zone must fill in the Passenger Locator Form 48 hours before their arrival back in Belgium. (The English portion of the information website states that this should be done “within 48 hours of your arrival”, but that suggests after your arrival, which is incorrect.)

Travellers returning from abroad must then quarantine for at least seven days and will be sent a text message telling them where to get a Covid-19 test. If they are negative, they can leave quarantine.

That’s not good enough for virologists, however, who point out that many travellers will not respect the week-long quarantine before their corona test is carried out. Flemish virologist Marc Van Ranst would like to see travellers refused entry back into the country unless they have proof of a negative test. Some other countries, such as Spain, are requiring this for anyone entering – or returning to – the country by air or sea.

“Requiring a negative test would discourage people from travelling in the first place,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “Look, we have advised against travelling for a long time now. Then we strongly advised people not to travel. These words are no longer effective. Now we have the Passenger Locator Form and a sincere promise that we will stay in quarantine and get tested. But it’s very clear that we need more than that.”

Photo: Dirk Waem/BELGA

Written by Flanders Today