Why is Belgium’s death toll so high?

“Whoever wants to compare our number with other countries has to divide it by two,” Steven Van Gucht, who chairs the government’s scientific committee for coronavirus, told POLITICO. “Any other comparison isn’t relevant at all.”

While most countries are only counting confirmed deaths in hospitals, Belgium is including all potential deaths in nursing homes — even if Covid-19 has not been confirmed as the cause of death.

Experts argue Belgium’s approach is more transparent, and that other countries are underreporting the total numbers of deaths. But there’s also growing political backlash that Belgium’s count could be just as misleading, but in the opposite direction.

Of Belgium’s registered deaths, 44 percent died in hospital (and were tested). The majority 54 percent died in a nursing home — and only in 7.8 percent of those cases was Covid-19 confirmed as the cause.

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