‘No big difference’: Belgium delays decision on further relaxations
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    ‘No big difference’: Belgium delays decision on further relaxations

    Credit: Belga

    As the coronavirus infections in Belgium continue to rise, the National Security Council decided to wait another week before taking a decision on possibly relaxing some more measures.

    Phase 5 of the exit plan is set to start from 1 August, according to Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, but the authorities want to take the latest epidemiological situation into account for the decision.

    A decision on whether or not Phase 5 can go ahead as planned will be taken on Thursday 23 July, and in the meantime, the situation “must certainly not get any worse,” said Wilmès during a press conference on Wednesday.

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    However, a one-week delay will likely make “no big difference,” according to Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst.

    “The changes that could happen in a week are limited,” he told VRT. “There may be a small increase or decrease. I think they are delaying a difficult decision for a week,” he added.

    “We need to know why we are seeing a rise [in infections]. And we also need to know the profile of the infected people,” epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme told VTM, adding that he does not know if a week is enough time to figure that out.

    “If politicians give themselves a week, I’d love it. We would like more clarity, in a database where we can see the profile of an infected person,” he added.

    Additionally, Wilmès announced that Belgium’s reproduction number (R number) has risen above 1 again, which means that the epidemic is regaining strength.

    “The trend is not positive,” Wilmès said. “We want to see how it evolves now. We are also trying to find out more about the cause of the resurgence. Then we can take better measures,” she added.

    If next week, it turns out that stricter measures are needed, Belgium is ready to do that, Wilmès said.

    If the infection figures decrease again, the maximum number of people allowed at events could be doubled from 1 August, making it 400 people for indoor events, and 800 for outdoor events.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times