Belgian COVID cases climb as government mulls lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) arrive at the emergency unit of the CHU Dinant-Godinne hospital with a patient on a stretcher, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Mont-Godinne, Belgium October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium, one of worst affected European countries by the new coronavirus, recorded an average of 15,316 new infections per day in mid-October, health officials said on Friday, hours before the government was due to consider a lockdown.

Home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, Belgium has one of the world’s highest fatality figures per capita from the virus and now, in the second wave, has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 infections.

“We see no favourable change for the moment,” health ministry spokesman Yves Van Laethem told a news conference.

The 38% increase in confirmed cases for the Oct. 20-26 period compared to the previous week takes the total number of infections since the beginning of the outbreak to 392,258 in the country of 11 million people, according to data from the Sciensano health institute.

After implementing a night curfew, closing bars, restaurants, gyms and cultural spaces, Belgium’s federal government is set to decide on Friday whether to implement a nationwide lockdown following a similar move by France to try to contain the epidemic.

Hospital admissions in Belgium dipped slightly on Thursday to 673, from 743 patients hospitalised with the virus the day before, but the level is still above the peak of the first wave, Sciensano figures showed.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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