Belgium Overestimated Coronavirus Deaths Says Study

Story ByMichael Leidig, Sub EditorJoseph GolderAgencyCentral European News

Belgium may have incorrectly attributed many who died from other causes to the coronavirus according to a new study.

The country is currently second worldwide after Italy with the highest number of deaths per million inhabitants. According to the Johns Hopkins University statistics, Belgium has suffered 33,573 confirmed infected with 4,440 deaths.

The unusually high number may be down to the fact that unlike other countries, it has been including those referred to as “presumed positive” in the numbers of dead from the coronavirus if they had the symptoms of illness.

But a new study has found that many of these “presumed positive” deaths may not have been infected with the coronavirus at all, and that it could have been the flu or the common cold or any other illness.

The discovery that the death totals might well be wrong was based on recent testing of 11,000 people in residential care homes, which has apparently shown that many of those with symptoms – and who if they later died would have been classified as “presumed positive” – actually never had the disease.

The government made 20,000 tests available for residential care homes, and so far 10,872 results have come back for 5,202 of the residents, 5,669 of the staff. Some 1,837 of those tested were infected, which when broken down meant one in five of the residents (20 percent) and 14 percent of the staff.

The tests involve people who were feeling ill as well as people who were seemingly healthy, but in the care home residents tested not even half of the people who were ill (48 percent) actually turned out to be infected with the virus. And of those that seem well, 16 percent turned out to be infected.

According to Flemish Minister of Welfare Wouter Beke (CD&V) that means that in recent weeks many of the deaths recorded as ‘corona deaths’ were in reality not, and said it would help explain the high mortality rate from the corona virus in the country.

He said that in other countries they did not include presumed positives in the number of deaths attributable to the disease.

He was quoted in local media as saying: “The test results now show that about half of the people in residential care centres who have symptoms also tested positive. One in two are therefore not infected with the coronavirus, despite the fact that they do have symptoms and have so far been referred to as ‘presumably positive’ in our numbers.”

The data was described as “striking” by Karine Moykens, who heads the task force set up to tackle the crisis in residential care centres and other care sectors.

She said: “We see here that both residents and caregivers appear to be infected, but do not show any symptoms and therefore experience the virus without noticing it. This strengthens our conviction that further testing is necessary, as well as the correct use of protective material.”

The government also admitted that some of the tests had to be discarded because they were carried out using the wrong instruction manuals, and also staff and residents had not been tested proportionally in all regions, as a result another 200,000 tests will be made available in the coming weeks.

Of these, 120,000 will be provided for residential care homes alone.

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