Should we present the Covid-19 figures differently? The former rector of ULiege wants to assess the “positivity”


For several months, the Institute of Public Health Sciensano has published the figures to assess the evolution of COvid-19 in our country. At the start of the epidemic, a daily report was published showing the number of positive cases, hospital admissions and deaths linked to Covid-19. Last June, Sciensano decided to publish reports focusing on changing trends and no longer on daily figures. “This makes it possible to better objectify the evolution of the epidemic, independently of fluctuations in the daily figures”, had justified the professionals.

How to understand the contamination figures? How to interpret them? How to put them in perspective? Some would like the number of positive cases to be related to the number of tests performed. For the Crisis Center, the figures must be analyzed globally. Since the beginning of March, more than 1,216,000 tests have been carried out.

Rather assess positivity

According to Bernard Rentier, former rector of ULiege, it is important to put the figures of the epidemic into perspective. According to him, they should be interpreted other than by designating the percentage increase in infections compared to the previous 7 days. Bernard Rentier advocates the presentation of results by evaluating the ratio of the number of positive tests by the number of tests carried out. We are talking about “positivity” here.

“That would give us a good indication of the number of positive people and not in relation to the total population but in relation to the number of people who have been tested. In a city where we test very very little, we can thus have very few cases. In Luxembourg, we tested a lot of people and there were positives, but in a reasonable proportion. And that still put them in the orange. As long as we continue not to speak percentage of positives among those tested, there is an information bias “, he says. The ex rector considers that the proportion of asymptomatic and mild symptomatic people should also be specified.

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