'Facing a risky descent': Belgium urged not to relax measures too quickly tomorrow

'Facing a risky descent': Belgium urged not to relax measures too quickly tomorrow
Credit: Belga

One day ahead of the Consultative Committee, all Flemish universities, their hospitals and medicine departments jointly urged the authorities not to relax the measures too quickly, despite Belgium's good coronavirus figures.

On Friday, the authorities are expected to give the official go-ahead for the first stage of Belgium's "summer plan," in which a whole series of relaxations go into force from 9 June, including the reopening of gyms and cinemas, as well the indoor areas of bars and restaurants.

However, "descending without brakes is life-threatening," the Flemish university rectors, hospital CEOs and department heads stressed in an open letter published (in Dutch) on VRT NWS.

"Recent mathematical models predict a new flare-up at the end of June, at least if we were to come into contact with each other again as we did in September last year," they wrote.

Additionally, increasing international travel during the summer months will also increase the risk of a reintroduction of the virus in Belgium, according to them.

"It is not up to us to make these political choices, or to scale them back. However, we do want to appeal to everyone's individual responsibility and civic-mindedness."

After the "long and extremely winding road" that everyone has been on since the beginning of the crisis, everyone is eager to reach the finishing line sooner rather than later, they wrote.

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The fact that the figures are evolving in a positive way is "prompting our country's governments to announce far-reaching relaxations in the Consultative Committee," they said. "Optimism triumphs and that feels good. But it also causes great concern."

"We are facing a risky descent, where we are far from certain what danger lurks behind the next bend," they wrote, adding that "the evolution of the epidemic has repeatedly shown itself to be a treacherous course with unexpected hairpin bends."

The recent deterioration of the epidemiological situation in the UK, the new variants such as the Delta variant (which was first detected in India), which is also gaining ground in our country and is expected to dominate, are "unmissable flashing lights," according to them.

"In all this, we must not lose sight of the fact that we belong to the group of countries in Europe that still have a relatively high virus circulation."

That is why "the plethora of relaxations announced in recent days" is "cause for concern" that the writers of the letter share "with the many experts who advise our governments every day on the basis of the latest scientific insights."

"The relaxations suddenly go very far. Perhaps too far, as if suddenly almost anything is possible and the danger is definitely over."

As long as the vast majority of the population has not been vaccinated twice, the experts ask everyone to be as restrictive as possible for the relaxations of contacts.

"Opt for outdoor socialising as much as possible, and keep a safe distance or wear a mask," they added. "Make sure that ventilation is controlled when you are indoors, ideally on the basis of a CO2 measurement. Follow recommendations on international travel as strictly as possible. Get tested at the slightest suspicion of risk contacts."

However, there is still reason for optimism, as the results of the vaccination campaign are clearly visible, and are rapidly protecting more citizens.

"However, we see it in practice: we can only really feel reassured two weeks after the second vaccination. Therefore, get vaccinated, and go for the second shot as well," they wrote. "You will only be properly protected two weeks later."

"In the end, it comes down to this: we appeal to everyone's common sense and sense of responsibility," they said. "We owe it to ourselves, our families, our friends and all those who continue to sacrifice so much every day for our health."

"It is difficult to be strict with yourself, especially when freedom is calling. But if we want to enjoy a carefree summer and a normal start to education in September, if we want to give our weary carers and experts some well-earned rest, we must all make the descent a little less risky."

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