BRUSSELS (Brussels Morning) – Flemish hospitals have had to postpone care again for several weeks due to the high number of corona patients on their services. There are few problems in Brussels, although the admissions are increasing again. Virologist Steven Van Gucht does not expect a strong upsurge immediately.
“Everything is well under control with us.” In the Sint-Pietersziekenhuis in the heart of Brussels, there is currently one covid patient in the intensive care department. Moreover, the flu has not yet crept in. The hospital therefore does not have to postpone care, says spokesperson Muriel Pletsers.
The same sound comes from UZ Brussel, where all interventions can continue as planned. “It is a bit of a puzzle due to absences during the Easter holidays, but nothing insurmountable,” says spokesperson Karolien De Prez. A few flu patients have arrived at UZ Brussel in recent days, but it is not a large influx. There are now 61 covid patients, 3 of whom need intensive care. That is a slight increase compared to the previous week.
The Brussels business-as-usual seems a great contrast to the puzzle work of some Flemish hospitals. Hospitals in Antwerp and Leuven, among others, have had to postpone care for several weeks due to the high pressure from covid and flu patients. “We have indeed seen for a few weeks that Brussels is doing relatively well within Belgium,” says virologist Steven Van Gucht of Sciensano. “Compared to Flanders, but also to Wallonia, Brussels has significantly fewer infections and hospital admissions.”
Across the country, more than 3,000 Covid patients are currently hospitalised, of which about 185 are in intensive care. In Brussels there are 262, of which 26 patients require intensive care. That is just under 10 percent of the total number of IC beds in the region. Postponing care is not necessary.
In the meantime, just like at UZ Brussel, the new admissions are increasing throughout the region. Since about four weeks, there has been an increase from about 155 corona patients in hospitals to almost half more. The infections also rose during that period from about 3,000 to more than 4,500 new cases per week. In contrast, Flanders has experienced a slight decrease in infections and admissions in recent days.
“I expect Brussels to follow in a few weeks with the same decline,” says Van Gucht. “Now we see a slight increase, but Brussels starts from a much lower average than the rest of the country.” Even if the admissions continue to rise for a while, there is still margin in the hospitals.
According to virologist Van Gucht, Brussels may benefit from a kind of ‘hybrid immunity’ because previous corona waves wreaked havoc there. “People who became infected a year or even two years ago build a broader immunity if they become infected with a new variant again,” says Van Gucht. “That also applies to those who received a booster. Repeated exposure to the virus not only increases the antibodies against that one virus, but also offers better protection against variants of the future.”
In addition, contact studies show that Brussels residents have on average fewer (close) contacts than Flemish people. “And there was no big carnival in Brussels,” says Van Gucht, which was the case in Limburg and East Flanders.
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