Coronavirus: Unsure when Belgium will return to normal

Coronavirus: Unsure when Belgium will return to normal
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No one can say when life in Belgium can return to normal after the new coronavirus (Covid-19), said Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès following the National Security Council on Wednesday.

Wilmès, accompanied by the country regions' Minister-Presidents, announced that the lockdown measures, based on the advice of experts, will be extended until at least 3 May.

"Today, you expect me to give you a possible guarantee about the future. I do so transparently and without false promise: no one can say when normal life will return. Our perseverance will be put to the test again and again. Let it not discourage us," Wilmès said during the press conference.

According to several experts, Belgium has likely reached the peak of its curve in the pandemic at the beginning of April, as the number of new hospital admissions has been gradually dropping since then.

The aim is to organise the next phase of the lockdown, which will be the relaxation of the measures, by the beginning of May, she said. "This will be a gradual process based on the work of scientists. The motto: slowing down the spread of the virus. We will adapt the strategy to the reality on the ground," Wilmès added.

"What we can do, we can also undo, and vice versa. Everything will depend on the figures and how well the measures are complied with," she said.

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Face masks will play an important role once the measures will become more flexible, according to Wilmès. "As the measures will be phased out, fabric masks will be recommended for any situation where a safe distance cannot be maintained," she said, adding that this will require a collective effort, including the start-up of national production.

However, those masks have to be used in the correct way, and do not guarantee protection or replace hygiene and distancing measures, Wilmès stressed.

Additionally, no mass events such as summer festivals will take place until at least 31 August, she announced, and whether or not sports games will be allowed to take place without an audience "has yet to be studied."

Next week, the National Security Council will meet again to look into how this relaxation of the measures can be handled.

Currently, the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 33,573. A total of 4,440 deaths have been reported, and since 15 March, 7,107 patients have been discharged from hospital.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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