12-year-old girl in Ghent dies of coronavirus complications

Summary

In what is thought to be the youngest victim of Covid-19 in Europe, a 12-year-old girl in Ghent has succumbed to the virus

‘Extraordinarily tragic’

A 12-year-old girl in Ghent has succumbed to complications brought on by the coronavirus, becoming the youngest known person in Europe to die from Covid-19.

“She took a sudden turn for the worse following three days of fever,” said virologist Steven Van Gucht, head of the coronavirus scientific committee in Belgium. “This touches us deeply as parents and as people. We offer our deepest sympathies to her parents, family and friends.”

While the girl is thought to be the youngest to die of the virus in Europe, she is not the youngest in the world. A baby in the US, who had an underlying health condition, died at the weekend.

Van Gucht emphasised that it is “very rare” for a child with Covid-19 to die. “But it is a reminder that people of all ages can develop complications.”

We hope to see the number of infections stabilise over the next few days

- Virologist Steven Van Gucht

The identity of the girl from Ghent has not been released, but she attended the De Harp Freitnet school in the city centre. Education city councillor Elke Decruynaere said that city officials had been in contact with the girl’s family, teachers and classmates.

“They are receiving support from the education network and other specialised institutions,” Decruynaere said in a statement. “It is unbelievable that they have to say goodbye like this. We will support them as much as we possibly can.”

Ghent mayor Mathias De Clercq called the girl’s death “extraordinarily tragic”, adding that “Ghent and the entire country are united in this immense grief.”

Van Gucht noted that the number of new patients was decreasing slightly, suggesting that Belgium may have reached the peak of new infections. “We hope to see the number of infections stabilise over the next few days. But that does mean more cases and more people who will land in intensive care.”

Photo, from left: Interior affairs minister Pieter De Crem and virologist Steven Van Gucht
©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA