While virologist Marc Van Ranst understands why Belgium opted to change its testing and quarantine strategy, he stressed that “an extra risk” is being taken like this.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on public health decided to relax various quarantine measures from Monday 10 January, in light of the less severe Omicron variant.
“There are still going to be people who get Omicron despite their recent vaccination and pass it on,” Van Ranst said on VTM News, adding that he advocates a sense of responsibility.
“I understand why they are taking these measures. This way, primary care is unburdened a bit, and an answer is offered to the fear of absenteeism in critical sectors,” he said. “But an extra risk is introduced as well.”
From 10 January, people who have either already received a booster dose or those who received their last shot of their “basic vaccination” up to five months ago will no longer have to quarantine following a high-risk contact.
Still, Van Ranst advises recently vaccinated people to “be very careful” after a high-risk contact, and to see as few people as possible and work from home as much as possible. Additionally, wearing an FFP2 mask for the first few days would be best.
On top of that, for those who have not yet received the booster vaccination or who received their last dose more than five months ago, the quarantine period will be shortened following a high-risk contact.
People who are infected themselves still have to isolate, but for seven days instead of ten. And lastly, the rules for unvaccinated people remain unchanged, meaning that they must get tested on days 1 and 7 and remain in isolation until they receive a negative test result after the second test.
Van Ranst explained that these relaxations go beyond what the experts had envisaged again, and hopes that the measures will not be relaxed even further at the upcoming Consultative Committee on Thursday.
An in-depth overview of the latest testing and quarantine measures – which take effect next Monday – can be found here.