19 April 2021: During the week from 9 to 15 April an average of 3,529 people tested positive each day. This is 1% down on the week. However, during the same period the number of tests was also down 14% on the previous week. Of those, 10% tested positive for the virus. Any positivity rate above 5% is considered to give cause for concern according to the WHO. The reproduction ratio for the coronavirus in Belgium currently stands at 0.94. The number of COVID patients in Belgian hospitals is back below 3,000, but pressure on ICU’s remains high. There are currently between 100 and 200 ICU beds free in the whole country. COVID and non-COVID beds included. There are traffic accident victims, people that have to undergo major operations, people that have had heart attacks or cerebral haemorrhages, but also organ transplantations and cancer operations. All these patients need to be accommodated in these few available beds. In summary, the situation on ICU’s remains a major concern. The good news is that during the next two weeks Belgium can expect to take delivery of more than 1.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine. The extra deliveries of Pfizer could possibly compensate for J&J in sheer numbers, but Pfizer requires two doses. Also, the amount of time between the vaccines being delivered here and them being used continues to shorten. A month ago, it took an average of 19 days between a vaccine being delivered and it being used. Currently this is 9 days. The Vaccination Task Force says that the aim is to shorten this period still further. Meanwhile, it’s the second time we’re enjoying the cherry trees in bloom during this unprecedented crisis – Ghent, Belgium.
18 April 2021: The seven-day daily average of new hospital admissions and deaths are coming down ahead of tomorrow’s relaxed restrictions. In total, 3,015 coronavirus patients were in hospital on Friday, 17 fewer than the day before, and 923 patients were in intensive care units. The number of new infections is still going up albeit at a much slower pace. From 7 to 14 April, an average of 3,637 new people tested positive per day, up by 1% from the seven-day average of the week before. Over the past two weeks, 447.9 infections were confirmed per 100,000 inhabitants and the reproduction rate stands at 0.94. The good news is that as of last Friday a total of 2,136,300 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine or 23.2% of the population aged 18 and older. The vaccination campaign in Belgium is currently in full swing. However, things will slow down somewhat during the next two weeks. While this week around 358,000 people have been vaccinated, 233,000 vaccinations are planned for the next week. The reason for the temporary slowdown is simple. Fewer vaccines will be available during the coming two weeks. Currently people in their early 70s are being vaccinated in Flanders and it will be the turn of people in their 60s next week. Once everyone over the age of 65 has been vaccinated it will be the turn of people with underlying medical conditions. With the cherry trees in full bloom there is hope that we are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic - Ghent, Belgium.
17 April 2021: The rays of light we have seen over the past few weeks have given way to some uncertainty. On average during the last seven-day observation period, the week to 13 April, 3,755 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed each day. The figure is up 4% on the week. Hospital admissions are down slightly, but still insufficiently to remove the pressure on the hospitals. Despite that the engine driving the fall is starting to stall, schools will reopen and the ban on non-essential travel will be lifted as of Monday. I’m holding my breath… In time vaccination will help, but for the time being vaccination levels are too low for them to have a substantial impact. Net-net, we did not yet weather the storm. On display is another vignette of life in Ghent during this unprecedented crisis – Citadelpark, Ghent, Belgium.
16 April 2021: On average during the last seven-day observation period, the week to 12 April, 3,884 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed each day. The figure is up 7% on the week. There are slightly fewer hospitalisations but there is no drop in critical care patients. Currently there are 3,049 patients in hospital with Covid of which 941 are in intensive care. In light of these most recent data healthcare professionals are voicing major concerns with regard to the raft of relaxations that the Belgian government put on the tracks yesterday. They are very worried that they will trigger an increase in Covid patients and the knock-on effect on regular care. The good news is that the EU will receive an extra 50 million doses this month of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. This will undoubtfully lift our country’s efforts to speed up inoculations in the face of difficulties with vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Clearly, this is no time for a foreign trip yet and we’ll need to enjoy our vacation at our local sea resorts – Nieuwpoort, Belgium
15 April 2021: Between 5 and 11 April 3,435 new cases were reported each day on average, 19 percent less than the week before that. 3,127 patients are currently in hospital with Covid. 945 are in intensive care, the highest level since the UK variant hit our shores.
Despite the fact that the pressure on hospitals remains extremely high, and that of all the patients who are admitted, about one-third of them go on to intensive care, the government announced yesterday a strategy for relaxation of the coronavirus-fighting measures.
On display today is another vignette of Ghent during this unprecedented crisis – Ghent, Belgium.
14 April 2021: The confirmed new infections and the number of hospital admissions continue to fall, albeit the fall is not as sharp as we might have hoped. Between 4 and 10 April 3,452 new cases were reported each day on average, 19 percent less than the week before that. However, far fewer tests are being carried out, 32% less compared with the previous week and the percentage of positive tests has risen to 9,4% which shows that the virus is still circulating strongly. Meanwhile, the fall in the number of hospitalisations remains modest at 5% per week but the total number of people in hospital continues to fluctuate around 900. Adding to this suboptimal situation was J&J’s announcement that it will temporally halt the shipments of its vaccine. The decision follows the recommendation from the FDA to temporarily pause using the vaccine, after six cases of rare blood clots were reported in the USafter vaccination. Exactly the same rare side effects as we’ve seen with the other vector vaccine from AstraZeneca. Being an American company J&J is more risk adverse and is shying away from potential financial liabilities and decided to stop all shipments despite the fact that the benefits from the vaccine significantly outweigh the potential risks. In light of all of this I do not think that the time is ripe for major relaxations. I’m wondering what the government will decide after having analyzed all data of the pandemic and taken into consideration the socio-economic impact of the lockdown. On display today is a mural of A squid called Sebastian – Voetweg, Ghent, Belgium.
13 April 2021: Between 3 and 9 April 3,485 new cases were reported each day on average, 19 percent less than the week before that. The number of people in hospital and on intensive care remains high. There are currently 3,048 patients with COVID-19 that are being cared for in hospitals. Of these 899 patients are on intensive care wards. Despite the four-week “Easter pause” implemented by the Government at the end of March, the coronavirus figures in Belgium have not dropped low enough for a full reopening of schools, according to the education sector. Therefore, as of next week pupils aged 15-18 will still only be able to physically attend school half-time, with half-time distance learning still in place. Kindergartens, primary schools, and the first grade of secondary education will be able to go to school full-time. Net-net, we’re back to the same situation as before the Easter holidays. On display today are the empty chalk circles on the St Peter’s Square. The circles were painted on the square to allow students to enjoy the spring sunshine safely and stick to the corona measure that restricts gatherings to only four people in the outdoors – Ghent, Belgium
12 April 2021: Between 2 and 8 April 3,558 new cases were reported each day on average, 20 percent less than the week before that. Also, the pressure on Belgian hospitals was slightly down yesterday, with more patients being discharged than being admitted to hospital. The total number of corona patients in Belgian hospitals stands now at 3,027, 905 of them are receiving critical care. The reproduction figure meanwhile remains just below 1, standing at 0.97. This means that the epidemic is shrinking, slowly but surely, for the time being. Speaking on national television yesterday the federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke had no comment on the demand made today for the hospitality industry to be given an assurance that they can reopen on May 1. He did however say that the ban on cross-border travel should be lifted on 18 April as expected. Happy about the promising outlook I continue my search for murals in Ghent and surroundings. Aziëstraat, Ghent, Belgium.
11 April 2021: The average number of infections continue to go down. During the week to 7 April an average of 3,599 people tested positive for SARCoV-2. The figure is down 21% on the week but the pressure on health services is still considerable, especially in intensive care units where 96% of beds are currently occupied by COVID and non-Covid patients. The reproduction rate of the virus is now 0.96 and the percentage of tests performed that are positive is 8,2%. The WHO recommends that the positivity rate needs to remain below 5% for at least two weak before any relaxations should be considered. We’re moving in the right direction, but the road is still long. Therefore, subject experts suggest postponing the reopening of restaurants, bars and cafes to mid-May. The good news is that vaccinations are moving into high gear. In Flanders 18% of the adult population has received their first jab. Belgium has now entered the top-10 tier of countries that have administered at least one jab to people aged 18 years or older according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Nevertheless, empty outdoor terraces and face masks are here to stay for a while – Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
10 April 2021: The number of new infections continues to drop. During the week from 31 March to 6April an average of 3,593 people tested positive for SARCoV-2. The figure is down 23% on the week. The total number of corona patients in Belgian hospitals stands at 3,128. 911 of them are receiving intensive care. As Belgium’s coronavirus infection figures are slowly decreasing, experts are considering “two major scenarios” that could happen after the four-week Easter pause: (1) the figures will have either dropped enough for relaxations from late April or early May, or (2) Belgium will be stuck on a plateau of more than 200 hospital admissions per day which would be a lot higher than after the second wave. Right now, it is still guessing where the wind will be coming from. On display today is the work of French artist Daniel Buren: Le Vent Souffle Où Il Veut. The One hundred flagpoles with the same number of weathervanes are positioned along the harbor channel in Nieuwpoort – Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
"Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with how you see them."
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