Experts in Belgium are sounding the alarm and urging government leaders to take the country back into lockdown "now" ahead of a new Consultative Committee meeting on the coronavirus on Friday.
Warning that Belgium's record-smashing figures are sending it into an "unprecedented tragedy," experts urged swift and decisive action, with some even saying the situation called for a lockdown "within the hour."
Marc Van Ranst: 'Time to hit the emergency brake'
Marc Van Ranst, a virologist advising the government since the start of the pandemic, said it was time for Belgian leaders to hit the brakes, saying recent measures had failed to contain the "critical" situation in the health care system.
"There is currently no indication that the measures taken are having an effect," he wrote on Twitter. "The situation is critical in healthcare. Like in our neighbouring countries, it is time for us to hit the emergency brake: lockdown."
"Schools can stay open as far as I am concerned because they will have some relief thanks to the extension of the autumn break."
The virologist's comments were echoed by several other of his peers in the scientific community, many of them calling for swift action from leaders in the face of "record-breaking" infection and hospitalisation figures.
Echoing earlier comments from top Walloon officials, Van Ranst said that Belgium should consider limiting non-essential movement, "like in France." The Walloon government also said it stood ready to break ranks and move further into lockdown if Friday's federal measures were too lax.
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Margot Cloet: 'We are heading for a systemic crash'
It is high time for a general lockdown like the one in March because, as things stand now, hospitals will have to choose who to treat, according to Margot Cloet of Zorgnet Icuro, a network with several hospitals and nursing homes.
"Politicians seem to continue to ignore this, but we are heading for a systemic crash," she told VRT. "We need to reintroduce a general lockdown as soon as possible."
"If we wait any longer, the problem will be so great that the hospitals will have to let people die or will simply have to close their doors," she said. "There will simply be no more staff. It is an illusion to think that we can take care of everyone."
Dirk Devroey: 'Belgium is headed for an unprecedented tragedy'
Earlier today, the dean of the Medicine and Pharmacy Faculty at the VUB, Dirk Devroey, also took the Twitter to call on the government to implement a total lockdown as soon as possible.
"All records are being broken today! For the first time, more than 20,000 positive tests, 21,048 to be precise. There were never before more people with Covid in the hospital, 5,924 to be precise, and 993 in intensive care," Devroey tweeted. "Lockdown is the only right decision. Today!"
Vandaag worden alle records gebroken! Voor het eerst meer dan 20.000 positieve tests, 21048 om precies te zijn. Er lagen nooit meer mensen met COVID in het ziekenhuis, 5924 om precies te zijn en 993 op intensieve zorgen. Lockdown is enige juiste beslissing. Vandaag nog!— dirk_devroey (@dokter_devroey) October 29, 2020
Belgium is heading for "unprecedented tragedy if we do not close all the doors very quickly," Devroey told Bruzz, adding that the current measures are strict, but not strict enough.
"This puts so much pressure on our hospitals, which are already full and where people have to be turned away," he said. "Within a few days, people are going to die who could have been helped under normal circumstances in intensive care. It is unacceptable to go on like this."
"If I were prime minister, I would sit down with the ministers now, and set up a lockdown within the hour. Every hour counts at the moment," Devroey added.
Rik Van de Walle: 'Dare to look at the facts'
Rik Van de Walle, the rector of the University of Ghent, also pleads in favour of a new lockdown.
Durf te kijken naar de feiten, beste mensen. We kunnen ons nu echt geen afwenden van blikken veroorloven. Elke dag wachten telt en maakt een wezenlijk verschil uit. Wie weet wat "exponentieel" betekent en ziet wat in de ziekenhuizen aan het gebeuren is, weet ook dit: #LOCKDOWNnu https://t.co/A1QiVIe953 pic.twitter.com/PjpsJ669sq— Rik Van de Walle (@rvdwalle) October 29, 2020
"Dare to look at the facts, dear people," he said on Twitter. "We really cannot afford to turn a blind eye now. Every day we wait counts and makes a real difference. Anyone who knows what "exponential" means and who sees what is happening in hospitals knows this too: #LOCKDOWNNow"
Belgium's Consultative Committee is set to meet on Friday to evaluate the measures that were put in place previously and possibly introduce new ones.
Gabriela Galindo & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times