Coronavirus ‘tsunami’ nearing Belgium, health minister warns

Coronavirus transmission is slipping out of control in Belgium, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said Sunday, on the eve of new restrictions in the country.

“We are really very close to a tsunami,” he warned, speaking to broadcaster RTL. “We no longer control what is happening.”

New restrictions are set to take effect on Monday, including the closure of all bars and restaurants, and a midnight curfew nationwide.

The health situations in Brussels and Wallonia are the “most dangerous in all of Europe,” Vandenbroucke added.

Belgium as a whole has seen about 605 infections per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, second only to the Czech Republic, which has 771, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data. A report published Sunday by the Belgian public health institute Sciensano shows cases have increased by 88 percent over the last week.

Deaths are up 85 percent compared to the previous seven-day period — with a 133 percent increase in deaths in care homes.

Hospital admissions have nearly doubled, and Vandenbroucke noted that staff are “extremely stressed.” He warned that health care unrelated to COVID-19 will increasingly need to be postponed.

Nonetheless, Vandenbroucke defended the government’s decision to impose a more lax curfew than in France, where people must be at home by 9 p.m. in certain areas.

“We did not want to make life impossible,” he said, contending that isolation and depression are “enemies” along with the virus itself.

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