By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium revised down on Wednesday the country's COVID-19 death toll, just as it was about to pass the milestone of 10,000 fatalities.
Health authorities have reviewed figures from care homes in the northern region of Flanders and found some COVID-19 deaths not reported as such, some recorded twice and some not caused by the new coronavirus. The net effect is a reduction of 121.
The revision brought the total fatalities to 9,878 by Wednesday. Otherwise, it would have been 9,999.
Britain also lowered its death toll from the disease by more than 5,000 two weeks ago after the government adopted a new method of counting fatalities.
Belgium's COVID-19 deaths per capita are among the highest in the world and it reports a higher proportion of fatalities in care homes than other countries, including when the disease is suspected but not confirmed.
Belgian COVID-19 task-force spokesman and virologist Steven Van Gucht told Reuters TV that Belgium, home of EU and NATO headquarters, had been hit hard.
"But if you compare Belgium with for example the United Kingdom or Spain you see they were actually hit even worse," he said, adding this was reflected in 'excess' mortality rates.
The number of new cases in Belgium has risen steadily from a low of around 80 per day in early July to an average of 490 for the week Aug 16-22, although numbers had been falling for 10 days.
Van Gucht said about a fifth of new infections appeared to have been caught on summer holidays. A new challenge would come from re-opening schools and a public tiring of measures among the strictest in Europe.
"This is a matter of prevention... This is really to avoid a problem that will only come in a few weeks or a few months," he said.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Clement Rossignol; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)