Omicron leaves ‘no room for extra relaxations,’ warns Van Ranst

Omicron leaves ‘no room for extra relaxations,’ warns Van Ranst
Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (left) and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Credit: Belga

As the Consultative Committee is meeting on Thursday morning, virologist Marc Van Ranst has warned that the very infectious Omicron variant leaves “no room for extra relaxations.”

The Committee started meeting at 09:30 this morning to evaluate the steep increase in Omicron infections, but major new restrictions or relaxations are not expected, Van Ranst said on Flemish radio.

“Over the next few days, the daily records for the number of coronavirus infections will rise even more,” he said. “The adjustment of the quarantine regulations has already made things much more flexible. There is no more room for further relaxations.”

On Tuesday, the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Public Health decided to relax the testing and quarantine measures for high-risk contacts. In practice, fewer people will have to quarantine, and for a shorter period. The new measures can be found here.

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One day later, the IMC met again – together with the country’s various Education Ministers – to also relax those rules for education, meaning pupils in nursery, primary and secondary schools also have to quarantine less and for shorter periods. The full measures for schools can be found here.

While Van Ranst acknowledged the need to unburden first-line care (such as test centres) who otherwise would not be able to keep up with skyrocketing infections, he warned that (partially) relaxing these precautionary measures always bears “an extra risk.

In light of the increased risk, Van Ranst believes that further relaxations today would not be smart. However, he also denied the need for more severe restrictions like contact bubbles.

Voluntarily limiting contacts

“I do not think that the bubbles will return, but there will be calls to limit contacts. I also hope that the FFP2 masks will attract more attention, as they provide better protection,” he said.

A report by the GEMS group given to the ministers of the Consultative Committee on Wednesday already showed that the experts are mainly stressing the need to voluntarily reduce contacts and telework full-time in addition to more protective masks.

The Committee meeting will be followed by a press conference later today to announce the latest changes to the measures, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times. The timing has yet to be announced.

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