A return to a full lockdown is not an option, even if there is a flare-up in the number of infections by the coronavirus, Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever has insisted.
De Wever, who also presides over the Flemish nationalist party N-VA, was taking part in a live debate organised by the VRT and Het Laatste Nieuws.
“A quarantine is normally a separation from sick people,” he said. “This is the first time that healthy people are being locked up. And we see that the longer that goes on, the more younger people can’t keep up. Of course there was no other option, because we could not test and track and trace.”
The next time there is a quarantine, if there is one, needs to be for sick people only.
“There has been a very clear warning that we are far into an economic no man’s land. If we do the same thing again, we might be heading into the crisis of crises.”
For epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme, however, a second wave is almost a certainty.
“If we can find the balance between easing the restrictions and avoiding a flare-up, we will make it to the finish line, which for the time being is to stall for time to defeat the virus. The only solution taking us back to the old normal is a vaccine,” he said.
“The second round is very likely if we get things wrong and we will have to react. In the autumn, other viruses will start circulating, such as the flu, with similar symptoms. It will be very difficult to determine which virus is involved. So we will have to prepare now to be able to monitor that.”
De Wever’s insistence seemed to contradict somewhat the view of his party colleague, Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon.
Jambon posted a video to Twitter wishing all mothers a happy Mother’s Day, with the comment, “But let’s take care, otherwise we may have to tighten the restrictions again, and of course nobody wants that.”
Also taking part in the corona debate, federal health minister Maggie de Block, warned that the road forward was not going to be easy.
“You’ll no longer be hearing ‘stay at home’ the whole time. But keep your distance, wash your hands, now face masks are part of the picture. This may be an even more difficult phase. Limiting our contacts completely. Everyone has to stay at home: it’s simple. But some people now seem to have trouble understanding what is allowed and what is possible.”
Pierre Wunsch, governor of the National Bank, was also on the debate stage.
“We are expecting an economic downturn of 8% in 2020,” he said. “That is enormous, but we have also lost a third of our economy in the last two months. That will come back, however, so it would be a better idea to look back on that in a few years and see that we are heading for a loss of more like two to three percent.”