A hospital at the centre of a coronavirus hotspot in Belgium is asking its nurses to carry on working even if they test positive for COVID-19.
Liege, situated in the east near the border with the Netherlands, has the highest coronavirus incidence rate in Belgium.
Coronavirus-positive nurses at a hospital in Liege have been asked to continue working as long as they are not displaying symptoms.
Dr Alexander Ghuysen, head of the emergency department at the hospital, told Euronews the decision had been a difficult one.
“It’s getting worse and worse, we are reaching a critical point,” he said.
“We know it’s a critical dilemma because we need to keep in mind the safety and quality of healthcare systems but there is a point where there’s nothing but bad solutions because that’s the point we are reaching now.
“We have only done this as we’re in an emergency right now. It’s becoming a real problem with the increase in the number of cases.”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has this week recorded Belgium as having the highest 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 citizens, just surpassing the Czech Republic.
At 1,390.9 per 100,000 people, it far outstrips even hotbeds like France or Spain.
More than 11,000 people have died in Belgium from COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak and the country has one of the worst fatality rates per million of population in Europe.
All this in a wealthy nation of 11.5 million people where no fewer than nine ministers — national and regional — have a say on health issues.
“A great many politicians can claim power but, in the end, no one is ever responsible,” historian and former member of the European Parliament Luckas Vander Taelen said. He called Belgium’s system of multiple layers of government to serve the 6.5 million Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north and the 5 million Francophones “institutional lasagna.”
Belgium is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, a crossroad of international trade and its capital, Brussels, hosts the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union with its steady stream of international visitors. But Belgium’s political makeup, with its multiple regional authorities, also creates a kaleidoscope of different government health measures.
Throughout the pandemic crisis, the Belgian population was unified in one thing: The general sense of confusion and bewilderment about the ever-changing rules imposed by the different layers of government. For someone living near Brussels, a bar closing hour or a maximum cap on attending a funeral might face different rules within just 20 kilometres (12 miles).