Smaller social bubbles 'necessary' to prevent second coronavirus wave

Smaller social bubbles 'necessary' to prevent second coronavirus wave
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The number of contacts allowed by people in Belgium needs to be urgently reduced if Belgium wants to stop a second coronavirus wave, according to biostatistics professor Geert Molenberghs.

The National Security Council should take firm measures today, especially about restricting social contacts again, said Molenberghs on Radio 2 on Thursday. "The 15-person bubble that is allowed to change every week, it is necessary that we get rid of that if we want to keep this under control," he said.

In recent days, national health institute Sciensano has also called for people to restrict their social contacts outside their own households as much as possible.

Figures by regional health authorities show that most new infections happen between family members, at small gatherings. "We want to stress that the virus does not become less infectious just because you have known someone for years,” said Boudewijn Catry of Sciensano on Monday.

Even though many people are tired of the restrictions, it is in everyone's interest to take this kind of action now, according to Molenberghs. "It is not too late yet, but it is five minutes to midnight. The number of infections is increasing rapidly," he said.

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Belgium is detecting cases much better than it was at the end of February and in March, just before the lockdown was implemented. "If we want to avoid another one, we must act quickly, at a local and national level to prevent worse," Molenberghs said.

Earlier this week, Molenberghs stated that it was advisable for certain regions with rapidly increasing infection figures, such as Antwerp,  to go in a smaller lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading to the rest of the country.

Underlining the gravity of the situation, Molenberghs compared today's number of people in the intensive care unit to before the lockdown. "Today, on 23 July, that figure is higher than it was on 14 March, the beginning of the first lockdown," he said. "That should make everyone see the seriousness of the situation," Molenberghs added.

Additionally, Molenberghs stressed the importance of avoiding risky situations and said that face masks should be made mandatory in all places where a lot of people gather.

"And when in doubt, it's better to wear one too often than not often enough. If you are on your own, walking the dog in the evening, it is not necessary, but as soon as you are in places where many other people are, it is best to wear a mask. It is as simple as that," Molenberghs said.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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