It is “not good” that face masks are already being questioned, especially when the number of Covid patients in intensive care is rising again, says Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
Now that hospitals again have to reserve 25% of their ICU beds to deal with the increasing number of severely ill coronavirus patients, face masks will remain incredibly important for some time to come, he explained on Flemish radio on Thursday.
“The solution to relieve hospitals is twofold: we need to vaccinate more people and make sure the virus is not circulating as much,” said Vandenbroucke. “One way to do that is to wear a face mask.”
“It is not good that this measure is already being questioned,” he said. “Caution is advised.”
Last weekend, however, party president for the Flemish right-wing N-VA, Bart De Wever, advocated lifting the obligation to wear face masks.
“I have the feeling we can leave it behind us. We can still be careful and take hygienic measures, like with the flu,” he said on VTM News. “Of course, everyone is still allowed to wear one, but we should be able to leave the obligation behind us.”
“In Flanders, we are heading for record vaccination coverage. We are now actually being held hostage by coronavirus measures that the population no longer supports,” De Wever said.
Along with De Wever, Joachim Coens, Flemish Christian democrat CD&V party president, and Egbert Lachaert, the Flemish liberal Open Vld party president, also made it clear that for their parts, the remaining measures can be lifted.
Vandenbroucke, however, warned that the much higher vaccination rate in Flanders does not mean that the coronavirus has exclusively become a Brussels problem, as Flanders is not yet out of the woods either.
“It is a bit simplistic to present it like that,” he said, explaining that there already is a difference in measures between Flanders and Brussels.
“In Flanders, the measures are already a lot more lenient, just look at how it is to go to a bar. Flanders should not applaud itself to sleep,” Vandenbroucke warned.
He referred to Antwerp, where De Wever is mayor, saying that “a significant proportion of the population there has not yet been vaccinated either.”