By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) – Belgium seems to be approaching the peak of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country, a virologist said at a health authorities’ daily press conference on Wednesday.
Current data from the country's Federal Public Service of Health indicates that 1,209 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in Belgium over the past 24 hours, with 205 losing their lives.
An additional 487 patients were hospitalized on Tuesday, while 524 recovered.
In total, 5,688 patients are currently being treated in hospitals, dropping by 324 compared to the previous day and indicating a decline in hospitalizations for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak.
Welcoming these new figures, Steven Van Gucht warned that the country was "still in the danger zone."
In total, 23,403 people tested positive for the coronavirus and 2,240 have died in the pandemic since mid-March.
The Belgian economy may lose about €60 billion ($65 billion) this year as a result of coronavirus, according to the latest estimations by the Belgian National Bank and Federal Planning Bureau published Wednesday.
The economic fallout is the result of strict limitations on public life imposed by the federal government three weeks ago to prevent the spread of the virus.
The measures only allow people to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, visit a doctor, help someone in need or go to their job if working from home is not an option for them.
Only supermarkets and pharmacies have remained open, with food venues only offering takeaway services.
The country's iconic fries industry has also taken a hit due to the outbreak, with Belgian farmers currently unable to sell a surplus of around 1 million tons of potatoes, worth of €200 billion ($217 billion), because of the declined demand.
After appearing in China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 184 countries and regions, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Over 1.44 million cases have been reported worldwide, with Europe being the worst-hit continent.
The global death toll is over 83,400 and more than 308,100 people have recovered around the world so far.