Belgium reports coronavirus surge in children
The actual rate of increase was 128 percent. The increase in contaminations among teenagers was 41 percent, he said.
"Currently in Belgium, three-quarters of the new cases detected are linked to children or teenagers," he said.
The increase is due to the scale of screening campaigns focusing on clusters within schools.
Twenty-one percent of COVID-19 transmissions occurred in schools, one-third in retirement homes and a quarter (26 percent) in companies, Van Laethem said.
A total of 702,437 people have been infected with coronavirus since its appearance in Belgium, according to figures published on Friday by the public health institute Sciensano.
To combat the spread of the virus, Belgium launched a vaccination campaign on Dec. 28, 2020, using the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. The first dose of the vaccine has already been administered to 243,412 people and the second to 3,458 people.
Up to Jan. 26, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products had reported 262 adverse side effects linked to the Pfizer vaccine, 37 of which were considered serious.
"Among the serious effects, 14 people died after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. All of these deceased patients were over 70 years of age and five of them were over 90 years of age," said Laethem.
The epidemiological situation remains extremely complex in Belgium. On some days the number of infections is increasing, on other days it is decreasing. "No, we cannot say that we are at the beginning of a third wave," said Laethem.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in Belgium and some other countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.
Meanwhile, 236 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 63 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 26. ■