Coronavirus tracker will help contain hot spots at the local level


VUB has crunched national virus data to identify and track outbreaks in each municipality

Is it hot in here?

An online tool that tracks local outbreaks of Covid-19 has been developed by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). It breaks down national data by municipality so that local authorities can better identify and control virus hotspots.

The daily reports of coronavirus cases for the whole country hide a lot of variation at the local level. Clusters of cases appear here and there, but more than 500 municipalities have had no detected cases of the virus in recent days.

The online tool developed by VUB takes the data produced by Sciensano, the Belgian health research agency, and breaks it down by municipality. Figures are given for the number of new cases the previous day, over the past three days, the past week and the past month.

High-risk locations

This is put into context with figures for the population and a calculation of the number of cases per 1,000 residents. “The tool is intended to help municipal authorities quickly identify sources of infection and possibly take new measures to prevent their spread,” explained Dirk Devroey, head of VUB’s department of general practice and chronic care.

The site also identifies a number of risky municipalities where the figures are particularly high. On Friday, this list was topped by Antwerp, which had 20 new cases over the past three days, 73 over the past week, and 504 in the past month.

Next came the Schaarbeek in Brussels, where there were 17 new cases in the previous week, but just one new case on Thursday. Third was Riemst in Limburg province, with nine cases in the previous week, and three on Thursday.

There is already a good monitoring system for care centres, but this should be extended to companies and schools

- Dr Dirk Devroey

Devroey’s own municipality Overijse, where he works as a family doctor and is an Open VLD councillor, is one of the lucky ones: no new cases in the past three days, one in the past week and just 14 in the past month.

As well as this municipal breakdown, Devroey would like to see similar systems to identify outbreaks in specific locations. “There is already a good monitoring system for residential care centres, but this should be extended to companies and schools,” he said.

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