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Belgium virus hospitalisations match first wave’s peak

The number of people in Belgium admitted to hospital with the coronavirus has all but matched the level in the first wave of the epidemic in spring, figures showed Wednesday.

Belgium, with 11.5 million inhabitants, is now the country with the most cases per capita in the world — if microstates such as Andorra are excluded — passing ahead of the Czech Republic.

On Tuesday, 689 people were admitted to hospital for Covid-19 treatment, more than the previous record of 629 on March 28, according to the Sciensano public health institute.

This means that 5,554 people are currently receiving treatment, almost as many as the 5,759 who were hospitalised on April 6, when Belgium last feared its intensive care beds would run out.

On Monday, more than 100 people died, the highest figures since April 29, and total deaths in Belgium are now 11,038.

Over the past seven days, 891 new cases have been recorded per 100,000 people, while Belgium’s neighbours France and The Netherlands have only 397 and 394 cases per 100,000.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has similar grim figures for Belgium, with an average of 1,400 new cases per day per 100,000 people over the past two weeks of exponential increase.

Belgium has reimposed a partial lockdown: Bars and restaurants have been closed since October 19, there are regional overnight curfews and gatherings of more than four people are banned.

The government will meet again on Friday, and Prime Minister Alexander de Croo could announce more stringent measures after talking to health experts.