Belgium Braces for Another Surge in COVID-19 Cases

BRUSSELS (AP) -
A member of the medical personnel prepares to work with patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the intensive care unit at CHIREC Delta Hospital in Brussels, Belgium. (Reuters/Yves Herman)

Belgium’s government warned Thursday that the country could well be on the cusp of another major surge in COVID-19 cases despite its high vaccination rate.

Though the government recently relaxed the mandatory use of face masks, it is again starting to encourage the population to use them to counter a rise in cases reminiscent of the first three surges of the past 1½ years.

“We are clearly in a fourth wave,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the VRT network. “We will see a major increase in infections and, unfortunately, hospital admissions.”

The government has this month loosened some restrictions, including allowing for more indoor events and dropping requirements for customers to wear masks in certain venues.

Belgium, a nation of 11 million, again has over 3,000 infections a day, an increase of 50% compared to the week earlier. Hospital admissions are at 80 a day now, an increase of over 40%.

Even if the total numbers are still manageable, there are worries about the curve spiking again, even though 85% of the adult population is vaccinated.