At least 10 hospitals in the worst-hit city of Liège have requested medical staff who have tested positive but are asymptomatic to continue with their work, with about a quarter of all hospital staff now believed to be infected with Covid-19.
“The situation is catastrophic,” Philippe Devos, an intensive care doctor at the CHC Montlégia Hospital in Liège, told the Washington Post. “Liège is now is probably the most affected region in the world. We have a lot of doctors and nurses affected. But, starting this week, positive cases were asked to go back to work if they are asymptomatic.”
Dr Devos, who is also head of the Belgian Association of Medical Unions, acknowledged there was a possible risk of transmission from infected health workers. But he told the BBC they had “no choice if they were to prevent the hospital system collapsing within days”.
Belgium’s health minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the broadcaster RTL the country faced the prospect of a “tsunami” of new infections, as seen in northern Italy at the start of the pandemic, where countries can “no longer control what is happening”.
Mr Vandenbroucke described the situation in the capital, Brussels, and the south of the country as "the most dangerous in all of Europe".
"The situation is serious," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told RTL. "It is worse than on 18 March when the lockdown was decided."
Belgium was also one of the worst-hit countries during the first spike of Covid-19. It’s latest daily tally of new infections was more than 15,000, taking its total cases to 321,000.
European countries are seeing a resurgence of coronavirus cases across the continent, with France reporting 50,000 new cases in a single day on Sunday.
The vast majority of European countries are declaring more cases each day now than they were during the first wave earlier this year. The continent as a whole reported over 1.3 million cases past week, bringing its total count to 46 million, as restrictions are enforced once again in many cities to control the fresh spike.