A generalisation of telework is 'absolutely necessary' to avoid stricter measures from being needed in the next few weeks, says the head of the Brussels health inspectorate, Inge Neven.
As the country feels the effects of a fourth coronavirus wave, widespread teleworking is "absolutely necessary," Neven stressed during a weekly press briefing on Tuesday.
"To avoid having to take additional measures, everyone really needs to take their individual responsibility and limit their contacts as much as possible," she said.
While Neven understands that most people prefer the different dynamic of seeing their colleagues on the work floor, she stressed that teleworking is and remains one of the best ways to limit the virus spread.
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"We must stay within our own bubble as much as possible, and try not to mix them up with others too much, certainly not in the Brussels region," she added.
Brussels sees around 200,000 commuters from outside the Region every day. "People come into contact with each other a lot, not just at work, but also in the metro, bus and tram. That is exactly what we have to avoid."
Last week, Belgium's Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke also called on the population to "push on the brakes" and urged companies to make working from home possible for employees, as the situation requires that “urgent action must be taken.”
On Flemish radio, he stressed that from this week – after the autumn break – companies must be prepared to implement it.
“Many companies are experiencing absences due to the virus. If they want to keep working, they should switch to telework," Vandenbroucke said. "This also means that there will be fewer people on public transport, meaning less close contact between people, and also fewer infections."
'Can still turn the curve around'
Virologist Steven Van Gucht, too, thinks that the current recommendation to work from home is not strong enough now that over 2,000 Covid-19 patients are admitted to hospital for the first time since May.
"It is one of the most effective measures that we have," he told Het Laatste Nieuws on Tuesday. "We know that there are companies that apply it strictly, but there are also those that treat it very loosely."
For Van Gucht, there is no need for stricter measures if the current ones – specifically the recommendation to work from home – are respected properly.
"I understand that it is really not obvious in all sectors. Sometimes it is impossible, but we do think that this is a measure that can have a very big impact and still allow the economy to run," he said.
"This way, the authorities do not have to resort to really strict measures like closures, but we will still be able to turn the curve around," Van Gucht said. "However, for that, the measure must be widely followed."
According to him, teleworking will be an important topic in the run-up to the next Consultative Committee meeting on Friday 19 November. "I think they will have to take a clear stance on what they are going to do with that teleworking recommendation."