The omikron variant is also on the rise in Belgium and threatens Brussels, where 40 percent is not vaccinated. “They will most likely go through covid,” it sounds. Nevertheless, there is not much else to do in Brussels than to focus on booster vaccines for double vaccinated people and the vaccination of 5 to 11 year olds.
Today, the entire omikron variant accounts for 3 to 4 percent of all corona infections. “By the end of this year, that will be more than 50 percent,” says virologist Marc Van Ranst. Omikron seems to reinfect people who already have Covid-19 more often. also for vaccinated people
There are no projections for hospital admissions yet. “But in England omikron is top priority,” says Van Ranst. “It will be the most difficult moment of the past two years anyway, even though omikron seems to be less pathogenic,” says Van Ranst. “Note: it is not a cold either. In South Africa (where the variant is already dominant, ed.) we are now also seeing more and more hospitalizations.”
Fortunately, a booster vaccine protects quite well against the omikron variant. “The protection against disease with symptoms goes from 20 to 30 percent with a double vaccination to 75 to 80 percent with a booster vaccine. The protection against hospital admissions is not higher. We therefore have no choice but to start with booster shots,” says Van Ranst, “which is going reasonably well in Brussels, including free resources.”
But what about unvaccinated people, about 40 percent of the population in Brussels? Van Ranst. 2 weeks after the second injection, you have a serious number of antibodies.”
Unvaccinated people still have to complete the course. “That is the advantage of Flanders, which has a very high vaccination coverage, and where those vaccinated are well protected again after one week after the booster vaccine.” While the lead time from the first injection to a well-functioning second injection is at least 6 weeks.
Yet Molenberghs emphasizes that it will not be the case that the Flemish hospitals will be empty and the Brussels hospitals full. “We are not going to stop the infections.”
And despite that long lead time, Molenberghs still thinks it makes sense for unvaccinated people to show themselves. “Together with the injection of the 5 to 11-year-olds and the use of booster vaccines, this forms the three pillars of the dam against a wave of hospitalizations.”
The question is will it be enough. Shouldn’t we, like the Netherlands, take stricter measures to slow down the infections? There is now also a free week before the holidays, the catering industry at 5 pm and you can only invite 4 people at home, per day of course.
Both Molenbergs and Van Ranst point out that the GEMS, the expert group referred to by the governments, had already advocated stricter conditions in the previous consultation committee, with an earlier closing time for the catering industry and a bubble of five. However, they are not now arguing for stricter rules.
“Let’s not make any advance assumptions for the meeting next Tuesday,” says Molenberghs. “Getting your contacts yourself via a quick test is of course a good idea anyway.” According to Van Ranst, we should especially not let the booster shots come to a standstill between Christmas and New Years.
“In addition, we must continue to focus on non-pharmaceutical interventions such as keeping a distance, shortening the interval time between the second injection and the booster – which has led to the 4-month compromise in Belgium, and the avoidance of large groups.”
The latter is also an eyesore for Molenberghs. “Things like Winter Fun should not be allowed. I already said that in the previous advice, but it still applies, especially with such a starting variant, people together really isn’t a good idea. The Christmas market may be outside, but there is always some kind of bustle: on the metro, tram, bus, or in the cafes around it. Should there be a real lockdown? We’ll have to look at that then. Fortunately, the United Kingdom and Denmark are a week ahead of us. That doesn’t seem like much, but with this variant, a week is an eternity.”