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Belgium's deputy PM in intensive care with coronavirus

Daniel Boffey in Brussels
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA</span>
Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

Belgium’s deputy prime minister, Sophie Wilmès, who had led the country until last month, has been taken into intensive care after testing positive for coronavirus.

A spokesman said Wilmès, 45, was stable and conscious but that she was in need of treatment. Wilmès had announced only last Friday that she was going into self-isolation after developing “suspicious symptoms”.

She tweeted the following day that her test had been positive and that the “contamination probably occurred within my family circle given the precautions taken outside my home”.

Belgium cases

“The multiplication of cases unfortunately reminds us that no one is immune,” she wrote. “Take care of yourself and above all take care of others.”

A spokesman said Wilmès was subsequently admitted to hospital on Wednesday evening. Belgium’s prime minister, Alexander De Croo, said the news illustrated the heightened risk of infection in the country. He tweeted: “Wish you a speedy recovery! No one is immune from this dangerous virus. All together we will defeat Covid-19.”

Wilmès had recently attended a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers. During a breakfast she sat next to the Austrian foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, who has also since tested positive.

There are growing calls from senior virologists for the government to put Belgium in a second national lockdown in light of spiralling infection rates.

In the seven days between 12 and 18 October, an average of 9,692.6 people tested positive a day, a rise of 75% on the previous week. The number of people admitted to hospital in the last fortnight is 254% up on the previous two weeks. Between 15 to 21 October, an average of 33.1 deaths occurred per day, up from 26.4 the week before.

“We must no longer ask ourselves what we should close; we must ask ourselves what to leave open,” a former spokesperson for the Belgian government’s coronavirus crisis centre, Emmanuel André told RTBF. “Today, we have to talk about reconfinement. It is the only tool we have left.”

Wilmès led the reopening of the hospitality sector, appearing for a photo opportunity with her husband in a restaurant. All restaurants and bars have since been shuttered again and a national curfew is being imposed between midnight and 5am. Shops remain open.