The Spread of COVID-19 in Belgium: a Municipality-Level Analysis

Year: 2020 HiCN Working Paper No. 333

Abstract: In this contributionI analyse socio-economic and demographic correlates of the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic across Belgian municipalities. I am interested in the onset of the epidemic, its intensity early on as well as the growth of contaminations in April. The paper usescontamination data from Sciensano, the Belgian health agency in charge of epidemiological information. In the period under investigation, March and April 2020, Belgium used a uniform and restrictive test policy for COVID-19, which changed on May 4th. The data are completed with socio-economic and demographic data published by governmental agencies. Employing linear and log-linear models I find that COVID-19 spread faster in larger, more densely populated, higher income municipalities with more elderly people and a larger share of the elderly population residing in care homes. Richer municipalities managed to slow down the epidemic in April more compared to poorer ones. Municipalities which were more exposed to migration, foreign travel for business, leisureor family affairs were affected earlier on in the epidemic. Income correlates with the contamination rate in particular in the Flemish Region whereas the share of foreign nationalities correlates with the contamination rate in particular in the Walloon Region.