Belgium uses COVID-19 barometer – POLITICO

Belgium launches a coronavirus barometer to assess the severity of the crisis Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Friday.

At a press conference, De Croo said the Omicron variant was “true to its reputation. It’s not a wave, it’s a real tsunami.” But he added: “There’s good news, Omicron makes people less sick. Mainly because more and more Belgians are being vaccinated or have become infected.”

The barometer, which goes into effect next Friday, will be a colour-coded system, allowing authorities to link COVID-19 measures on hospital admissions and intensive care unit capacity.

The country will start Code Red, which will come into effect when the healthcare system faces a serious threat (150 new daily hospitalizations and an ICU bed occupancy of more than 500); Code Orange is for situations where the healthcare system is under pressure (65–149 new daily hospitalizations, ICU bed occupancy of 300–500); and Code Yellow is for less burdened hospitals (less than 65 new daily hospitalizations, ICU bed occupancy less than 300).

The barometer “will help with decision-making, but the Advisory Committee will decide what level of the Code we are in and what actions will take effect based on that,” De Croo said.

“The Advisory Committee may decide to stop using the barometer for a period of time and then reactivate it,” said the country’s COVID-19 Commissioner Pedro Facon. “It’s also up to decision-makers to decide whether or not to follow the barometer to the letter.”

De Croo also announced that from January 28 bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open until midnight, as opposed to 11pm. Nightclubs remain closed. Public institutions such as cultural centers are allowed to receive up to 200 visitors as long as they have a health pass. Sports stadiums are allowed to host outdoor events.

From March 1, a booster shot will be required for people to keep a valid health record if it’s been more than five months since their second dose.

Belgium reported a steady rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in January, with more than 30,000 daily cases between January 11-17 and 255 daily hospitalizations between January 14-20, according to the country’s health institute.

Steven Van Gucht, a virologist at the institute, said in a press conference Friday morning that he expected hospital admissions to peak “in late January or early February.”

The Advisory Committee will re-evaluate the barometer’s code on February 7th.

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