Françoise Renard , Aline Scohy , Johan Van der Heyden , Ilse Peeters, Sara Dequeker, Eline Vandael, Nina Van Goethem, Dominique Dubourg, Louise De Viron, Anne Kongs, Naïma Hammami, Brecht Devleesschauwer, André Sasse, Javiera Rebolledo Gonzalez, Natalia Bustos Sierra
COVID-19-related mortality in Belgium has drawn attention for two reasons: its high level, and a good completeness in reporting of deaths. An ad hoc surveillance was established to register COVID-19 death numbers in hospitals, long-term care facilities (LTCF) and the community. Belgium adopted broad inclusion criteria for the COVID-19 death notifications, also including possible cases, resulting in a robust correlation between COVID-19 and all-cause mortality.
To document and assess the COVID-19 mortality surveillance in Belgium.
We described the content and data flows of the registration and we assessed the situation as of 21 June 2020, 103 days after the first death attributable to COVID-19 in Belgium. We calculated the participation rate, the notification delay, the percentage of error detected, and the results of additional investigations.
The participation rate was 100% for hospitals and 83% for nursing homes. Of all deaths, 85% were recorded within 2 calendar days: 11% within the same day, 41% after 1 day and 33% after 2 days, with a quicker notification in hospitals than in LTCF. Corrections of detected errors reduced the death toll by 5%.
Belgium implemented a rather complete surveillance of COVID-19 mortality, on account of a rapid investment of the hospitals and LTCF. LTCF could build on past experience of previous surveys and surveillance activities. The adoption of an extended definition of ‘COVID-19-related deaths’ in a context of limited testing capacity has provided timely information about the severity of the epidemic.