To avoid a complete lockdown like in the Netherlands, Belgium should take extra measures at the Consultative Committee on Wednesday, said Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
The Committee meeting will focus on combatting the threat of the advancing Omicron variant, Vandenbroucke said on VRT television programme ‘Terzake’ on Monday evening.
“If we do not want to end up in a complete lockdown, especially where children or our personal lives are concerned, then I think we have to take precautions,” he said. “We have to be on the safe side.” For Vandenbroucke, this should be the motivation for the political leaders as well as the population at large.
“In a period of uncertainty, we must make the best of it in solidarity,” he said, referring to the well-being of children after the Christmas holidays, among other things. “I would like the schools to be able to open and for normal lessons to be held. We must do everything we can to make that possible.”
On Tuesday morning, the president of Vandenbroucke’s Flemish socialist Vooruit party, Conner Rousseau, stressed that while the figures are evolving favourably, “we may still have to be careful, there is a new danger around the corner.”
“What Minister Vandenbroucke said – taking extra precautionary measures now to avoid a complete lockdown – is a good balance, I think,” Rousseau said on Flemish radio. “At the moment, a lockdown like in the Netherlands is not on the table.”
Rousseau also favoured tighter controls in public, rather than on private Christmas and New Year celebrations. “The controls could be made a lot stricter. For example, there are restaurants that still do not ask for the Covid Safe Ticket. We really cannot accept that.”
‘Additional package of measures needed’
Virologist Marc Van Ranst also stated the need for additional coronavirus measures but added that this does not have to be a hard lockdown like in the Netherlands.
“I think that with the situation we are in now, an additional package of measures will be needed to avoid moving to a real lockdown. That is going to be the concern,” he said on VRT’s ‘Laat’ programme on Monday evening.
In the meantime, the GEMS expert group advising the government on coronavirus measures met late on Monday to prepare its recommendations.
“It would be indelicate to talk about the GEMS advice already. It still has to be handed over,” Van Ranst said, referring to previous instances when the advice was leaked to the press before the Consultative Committee even met.
The Consultative Committee will meet from 2:00 PM tomorrow afternoon and is expected to hold a press conference to announce its decisions afterwards.