Belgium’s coronavirus barometer should be ready by the weekend

Belgium’s coronavirus barometer should be ready by the weekend
Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon (left) and Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. Credit: Belga

After much hesitation and delays, Belgium’s long-awaited “coronavirus barometer” should be ready by the weekend, according to Coronavirus Commissioner Pedro Facon.

Using three colours, the barometer will indicate how serious the state of the epidemic is and measures that could be taken in different sectors, Facon said on Flemish radio. Thereafter, it is up to politicians to decide whether these measures should be taken or not.

“The final documents for the technical design of the barometer should be ready by the weekend. But we are not starting from a blank sheet,” he said. “Before the Christmas break, we already presented a number of documents which we continued to work on during the Christmas break.”

Facon stressed that a lot is currently being discussed with politicians and sectors, but also with governors and other government authorities to make sure the barometer’s implementation can go smoothly.

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“It is important to indicate in a more structured way what stage of the epidemic we are in,” he said. “For politicians, this also gives a structured way to make policy preparations: what measures are possible in certain scenarios? What happens in which phase?”

Additionally, the barometer will also give sectors a bit more predictability, so they are not surprised by certain measures. For the time being, the intention is not to put everything into the barometer. “The focus now is on public events, organised activities and the hospitality industry,” said Facon.

Introduced at next Consultative Committee

The barometer should provide more clarity and prevent politicians from ending up in long discussions about measures in the sectors concerned at each meeting, he added. The tool is expected to be introduced at a Consultative Committee next week, but an official date for the meeting has yet to be set.

After the previous Committee meeting, on Thursday 6 January, the future of the barometer seemed uncertain as both the Flemish and Walloon Governments were reportedly not in favour of it.

The main argument against it is that politics will always decide which measures apply, not figures. Additionally, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the new Omicron variant, which makes setting the threshold for those deciding figures difficult.

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