Maybe ‘two cuddle contacts before Christmas,’ says Marc Van Ranst
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Maybe ‘two cuddle contacts before Christmas,’ says Marc Van Ranst

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Belgian Christmas plans could potentially get a little bigger this year, following a suggestion from Marc Van Ranst that two ‘cuddle contacts’ – close contact – could be allowed before the end of the year.

Christmas is already shaping up to be a very different affair in Belgium and the rest of the world, with many facing the reality they might not be able to spend time with loved ones, while expats wrestle with the possibility they might not be able to go home, or see anyone they know here.

According to virologist Marc Van Ranst, however, there is hope that groups can incrementally grow by the end of the year.  “Maybe we can go from 1 to 2 cuddle contacts,” Van Ranst told Radio 1, adding that “it won’t be an ordinary Christmas”.

“We have to resign ourselves to that. Political circles are thinking about it, with a decision on this or the next Consultative Committee, but everyone realises that the situation is still serious”.

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The Consultative Committee meets at 2:00 PM. The agenda is not known, but some Belgian media are suggesting Christmas and New Year may be on the table in light of recent comments from experts.

Speaking to the Brussels Times, however, Tom Meulenbergs, spokesperson for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo could only confirm that “the situation in the hospitals and intensive care units will be analysed, as will the infection figures.”

As it stands, no press conference is expected, leading to the assumption that no new measures will be put into force.

All Depends On The Figures

“We will not celebrate Christmas with more people than our own families. Of course, we can still have one hug (outside the family). Maybe we will still be able to have one hugging contact there at Christmas, but that will depend on the corona figures”.

Current Belgian figures are improving, with Belgian hospitals admitting the lowest number of new coronavirus patients since mid-October on Thursday, as infection figures drop below 7,000 cases per day, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Friday.

“But we have to be careful,” says Van Ranst. “We should now see the effect of the stricter measures. It’s still too early to say how deep the curves are going.”

“It’s still 40 days before Christmas, a lot can still happen, but we have to be realistic. The number of people in hospital is falling, but the number of people in intensive care is still at its peak. So you hope that people understand that the situation is still serious”.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times