‘Too early’ for Belgium to relax rules like England, says Van Gucht

‘Too early’ for Belgium to relax rules like England, says Van Gucht
Credit: Belga

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England would lift a series of coronavirus measures, but it is still too early for Belgium to consider similar relaxations, said virologist Steven Van Gucht.

From Thursday 27 January, the so-called “Plan B” will expire in England, which includes the coronavirus pass to gain access to nightclubs, the teleworking recommendation and the face mask obligation.

“As the coronavirus becomes endemic, we must replace legal obligations with advice and recommendations,” Johnson said in Parliament on Wednesday. From 24 March, England expects to end the isolation period for positive cases, but that date may still be brought forward.

“In the United Kingdom, they do seem to have reached the peak, but it is really still too early for Belgium,” virologist Steven Van Gucht told VRT. “Our figures are still on the rise: the infections are increasing sharply, and hospital admissions are also accelerating now.”

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Relaxation measures should only become an option when we are past the peak, he said. On Wednesday, an average of nearly 28,000 new Covid-19 cases are being recorded per day in Belgium – an increase of 27% compared to the previous week.

“The UK is a few weeks ahead of us, and it indeed seems like they have had that peak. That gives a bit more overview, so you can make plans around rules that can be relaxed.”

For Van Gucht, face masks should be the very last measure in Belgium to be dropped. “It is a cheap measure that works very well. I would not look to scrap that too quickly.”

Additionally, mandatory teleworking is also still a very important issue, even if is four days instead of the entire workweek, he said. “In time, we will have to reconsider that, but now is still too early.”

On Friday afternoon, the Consultative Committee is due to meet to discuss possible relaxations and the implementation of the “coronavirus barometer.”

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