The number of fatalities in Belgium from the new coronavirus crossed 20,000 on Sunday, health officials said, with more than half the deaths from retirement care homes.
The country, with a population of 11.5 million, has recorded 662,694 cases and 20,038 deaths since the pandemic broke out, the Sciensano public health institute said.
Belgium counts all deaths of people who have had a positive Covid-19 test among virus fatalities, giving it one of the world’s highest death rates with 1,725 per 100,000 people, according to an AFP tally.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Belgium also included people who died and may have had the virus but did not necessarily have a test.
Covid-19 vaccinations began in Belgium on January 5.
Virus deaths in retirement homes reached 10,270 on December 18, the authorities said. Amnesty International had the previous month alleged the authorities had “abandoned” care homes.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Sciensano reported more than 250 deaths a day with a peak of 322 on April 8.
The figures improved during summer but began rising again in October with 218 daily deaths recorded on November 10. The average number of deaths reported last week was 58 a day with about 1,780 infections.
More than 1.9 million people worldwide have now died from the virus, with new variants adding to soaring cases and prompting the re-introduction of restrictions on movement across the globe.