Belgium, with its more than 11 million inhabitants, is a country whose population can in many ways be compared with Sweden.
But in Belgium, more than twice as many have died in covid-19. Yesterday, the country’s authorities announced that more than 20,000 people have died so far. This means that 1,700 people per million inhabitants have lost their lives. The corresponding figure in Sweden is 900 people per million, figures from the World Health Organization, WHO show.
The new death toll means that Belgium is the second hardest hit country in the world. San Marino alone has more deaths – 1,885 per million inhabitants (however, the country has only 33,000 inhabitants).
Why is Belgium so hard hit?
There are a number of different theories that can explain what went wrong.
Maybe count differently
Belgian authorities say they count deaths in a way that is different from all other countries. Namely, they include deaths in nursing homes that are only suspected covid-19 cases, but which have not been confirmed.
In May, Steven Van Gucht, virologist and spokesman for the Belgian government, explained to the BBC how it works:
– It is based on an assessment by a doctor, who usually takes into account whether corona infection is present in the accommodation. For example, if you have one or two confirmed cases, and then have ten deaths in the same home, with similar symptoms.
More in nursing homes
Another factor may be that Belgium is one of the countries in Europe with the most people in nursing homes. Of those over 65, 69 people per 1,000 inhabitants live in nursing homes. In Sweden, the same figure is 70 per 1,000 inhabitants – and one of the highest in Europe.
Like Sweden, Belgium has also been criticized for how the infection was handled in nursing homes. They were unprepared, and in the beginning staff lacked protective equipment. It is believed to have contributed to the virus’ rapid spread, and just as in Sweden, the management of the infection in nursing homes has received harsh criticism.
Lots of travel
Another potential reason is that the inhabitants of Belgium travel a lot. The country is home to both EU and NATO headquarters, and in the capital Brussels, two out of three residents were born abroad. This means that the city is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan – filled with jetsetters and people whose work involves a lot of traveling.
– Belgium is a small hive in the heart of Europe, which makes the country very vulnerable to both the introduction and spread of the virus. Those who work in the so-called “Euro bubble” travel a lot and often travel back and forth between Belgium and their home country.
A divided country
In Belgium, mainly French and Dutch are spoken (the Belgian variant is called Flemish) and a small amount German.
This means that the country is divided, something that could also contribute to the large spread of infection. The different regions of the country decide a lot themselves, and the country has as many as nine health ministers. This means that they did not have exactly the same regulations everywhere.
Unlike, for example, Sweden, Belgium shut down the whole country early. Unnecessary shops and businesses were first closed, but are now open since 1 December. However, only one adult at a time may shop for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time.
Public gatherings may not be larger than four people and grocery stores may only sell necessary products. Only one person per household is allowed to visit the grocery store. In addition, Belgium had some of Europe’s toughest restrictions over Christmas: those living alone were allowed to meet a maximum of two people. At night, curfews apply.
“Unable to know”
In Sweden, the new pandemic law was introduced this weekend, which will make it easier for the government to implement tougher measures against the spread of infection, by being able to close down public transport and shops, among other things. The law is much talked about, and among other things Agnes Wold. Professor of Clinical Bacteriology at the University of Gothenburg, is skeptical.
Wold, whose daughter lives in Belgium, says News24 that it is difficult to say exactly why the country has been hit so hard.
– I have thought about it incredibly much and discussed with my daughter, but we have not really come to anything.
She is not sure that a shutdown of the country has been very helpful.
– If you have a lot of infection before, and then you lock people in, then it could theoretically be the case that it leads to an increased spread of infection within the families. Of course, it is not possible to know what would have happened if they had not shut down, but it is quite clear that you can not fight the infection completely in that way.
New figures: At least 80,000 have been vaccinated against corona
The proposal: SEK 2,000 in fines if you break the pandemic law
Free access for travelers without mouth guards – everyone can go with
*The article has been translated based on the content of nyheter24.se by nyheter24.se. If there is any problem regarding the content, copyright, please leave a report below the article. We will try to process as quickly as possible to protect the rights of the author. Thank you very much!