As all coronavirus figures in Belgium are rising again, the third wave of infections has started, according to intensivist Geert Meyfroidt (UZ Leuven).
"We already know that [the figures] will go up again after the Christmas holidays. We are not going to have the choice whether we step in or not, it will come at us. The third wave is here," he said in Flemish television programme De Zevende Dag.
"There is going to be a surge, whether we call it 'a wave' or not," said Meyfroidt. "All we can do is keep it as small as possible. That is really very important."
He fears an exponential increase of cases, like during the first and second wave. "The earlier we start [preventing the spread of the virus] and the better we do it, the smaller we make the wave," Meyfroidt said.
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According to him, how Belgium handles schools and foreign travel are important factors in the latest rise of infections, as is people's motivation.
During a press conference on Friday evening, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that non-residents wanting to enter Belgium will have to present a recent negative Covid-19 test before they are allowed in from Christmas.
Additionally, De Croo stressed the importance of not travelling abroad, and emphasised that it was still "strongly discouraged."
According to Meyfroidt, just discouraging foreign travel is not strict enough. "Instead of advising against travelling, forbid it," he said.
However, even more important than strict travel rules is people's motivation to comply with the measures.
"I have the impression that this is now evolving in the right direction, when I look in my own environment," he said. "People who were planning to 'sin' to a greater or lesser extent during the holiday season are now saying that they are not going to do so after all."
"That is going to save us. If you look at what happened after Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada, it caused a huge upsurge," Meyfroidt.
On Sunday morning, De Croo said that if one in five families in Belgium invited too many people for Christmas, the country would see "a huge third wave" in January, based on experts' models.
“Only one in five not respecting the measure is enough,” he added. “So, these rules are necessary, even though we are well aware that they weigh heavily on our spirits.”
The Brussels Times