Opinion: Why Belgium has recorded so many coronavirus deaths

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft. BRUSSELS — By the official numbers, Belgium has been the country hit hardest in the world by the coronavirus.  The nation of 12 million has the highest mortality rate among confirmed cases, at 16.4 percent. Italy has reported 52.  Belgian officials have sought to tamp down concern by suggesting their chart-topping numbers are products of their accounting methods and commitment to capturing an accurate picture of their outbreak. Video: High hopes for the Oxford vaccine (Sky News) According to figures released Sunday, Belgium has recorded 9,052 deaths from the coronavirus. ____________________________________________________  More on coronavirus: ____________________________________________________ “Our way of counting things is the most scientifically correct and honest,” Yves Van Laethem, a virologist and Belgian government spokesman, told reporters Friday.  Van Laethem showed reporters a slide of calculations from the Economist magazine indicating that Belgium’s official coronavirus toll closely tracks “excess deaths” for the pandemic period — the number of deaths that exceed what would be expected for the period, based on the country’s historical death rates. Slideshow: Coronavirus pandemic (Photo Services) Slippers claiming a position in the queue for food aid during Ramadan, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on May 17. Indat Ange Desire, 30, and Marie Andrea Offoumou, 28, pose on the stairs at their wedding ceremony, following the easing of restrictive measures against the spread of the coronavirus, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on May 15. One explanation, he said, might be Belgium’s relative population density in comparison to its neighbors: the Brussels airport, an international transportation hub, might have helped seed the disease in the crowded capital region. Belgium’s nursing homes account for more than half of its deaths, partly because older Belgians are more likely than their counterparts in other European countries to live in elder-care housing. Public health authorities acknowledge that they were slow to realize the risks the homes posed as a vector to spread the disease. Even at the peak of the outbreak here, the occupancy of intensive care beds never rose much above 60 percent, a fact that public health officials have focused on with some pride despite the high relative death toll.