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Belgium holds off on new coronavirus measures

by host

Belgium refrained from introducing new COVID-19 measures on Thursday, despite a looming peak in Omicron cases and hospitalizations.

“The coming weeks will be difficult. We will break new records in the number of people infected,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “The numbers are on the rise and the situation will get worse before it gets better.”

The Consultative Committee in charge of pandemic policies agreed to retain the measures already in place, such as the 4-day remote working obligation and the 200-person maximum capacity in theaters and cinemas.

“A lot of hospitalizations are expected with the peak in late January. This could range from an estimated 30,000 to 125,000 infections per day,” warned Steven Van Gucht, the interfederal spokesperson for the fight against the coronavirus.

The Consultative Committee’s decision comes two days after it decided to drop quarantine requirements as of January 10 for fully vaccinated close contacts, despite Belgium’s spiralling case numbers.

Belgium is experiencing a fifth COVID-19 Omicron wave, with more than 11,000 daily COVID-19 cases and 169 daily hospitalizations between December 26 and January 2. The number of COVID-19 patients in Intensive Care Unit beds, however, was cut by almost half from more than 800 in early December to 470 on January 5. 

Another Consultative Committee meeting will take place by mid-January to develop a long-term strategy to manage the crisis.

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