'A disgrace': Van Ranst furious about leaked advice on stricter measures

'A disgrace': Van Ranst furious about leaked advice on stricter measures
Marc Van Ranst: Credit: Belga/N. Maeterlinck

On Monday morning, virologist Marc Van Ranst took to Twitter to condemn the premature leaking of the advice about stricter coronavirus measures, drafted by the GEMS expert group advising the Government.

The report, which was finalised and sent to the Coronavirus Commission by the group of experts on Sunday night, was leaked to the press early on Monday morning.

"The GEMS advice is given to the Commission, which passes it on to the politicians of the Consultative Committee in confidence," Van Ranst tweeted.

"When our GEMS advice, after a long weekend's work, is leaked to [Francophone newspaper] Le Soir one minute later, this is not a decent way of working," he added.

All expert recommendations are always made public, but only after the Consultative Committee meetings, not ahead of them. That way, politicians can explain why they did or did not follow certain advice, if they are asked about it, explains Van Ranst.

"When the GEMS advice is leaked, the experts are forced to defend the (necessary but sometimes unpopular) measures to the press before the political decisions are made," he said, adding that this is "neither their job, nor their responsibility."

"It is a disgrace that expert opinions are leaked for the sake of political games," Van Ranst stressed.

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The experts, as well as many politicians, deplore this way of working, he says. "It makes serene political decision-making difficult and damages the good cooperation with the experts."

An overview of the leaked recommendations, first reported on by Le Soir, can be found here. They include closing nightclubs, making teleworking mandatory until the Christmas holidays, and requiring face masks for children from 9 years old.

The Consultative Committee, which will meet from 2:30 PM on Wednesday (instead of on Friday as initially planned), will discuss stricter rules to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Following the meeting, a press conference will be held to announce the latest changes, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

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