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The Belgian Ministry of Health warned intensive care units on Friday of dealing with a third wave of coronavirus infections – but authorities continued to stick to plans to ease restrictions.

Health official Marcel Van der Auwera said ICU staff were “exhausted and pushed well beyond their borders” as the country battles to contain the virus.

He said the nurses had worked at “130 percent” capacity for a month and the situation would likely last for “two or even three weeks.”

According to authorities, around 900 of the total of 2,000 Belgian intensive care beds were occupied by COVID patients, a number that has remained stubbornly unchanged for two weeks.

This means that hospitals have problems with other emergencies, including severe burn victims and road traffic accidents.

Van der Auwera said there were only “82 beds available” in these units across the country on Friday.

He said Germany was ready to accept patients from Belgian hospitals upon request from Brussels.

Belgium sent patients to its larger neighbors for treatment during an earlier wave of coronavirus infections in November.

Despite the dire warning from health officials, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed on Friday that restaurants and cafes would reopen outside terraces from May 8, with four people per table allowed.

The hospitality sector has been looking for a break after being closed to everything but take away for months.

De Croo insisted that restrictions could be relaxed as the country’s vaccination campaign progressed “better than expected”.

He said that from May 8th, cultural and festive events with up to 50 people would also be held in the open air.

But he did not postpone the prospect of the theaters reopening until June at the earliest, although the ailing sector asked to start again earlier.

Belgium – a country of 11.5 million people – has reported an average of just over 3,500 new cases of COVID per day in the past 7 days.

So far, more than 2.5 million people, or 22 percent of the total population, have been kicked at least once.

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© 2021 AFP

Quote: Belgium warns of buckling in intensive care units (2021, April 23), retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-04-belgium-intensive-buckling.html on April 24, 2021

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