Omicron wave could be ‘very disruptive’ to society, says Belgian health minister

Omicron wave could be ‘very disruptive’ to society, says Belgian health minister
Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. Credit: Belga

The current Omicron infection wave could be “very disruptive for our society,” Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has said, warning that the idea that we should just let it hit us is dangerous.

The Omicron disease is spreading more and more rapidly across Belgium, with virologist Steven Van Gucht expecting the peak at the end of this month, with between 30,000 and 125,000 infections per day.

“The idea that this ‘lighter’ Omicron wave is a good thing for herd immunity is very dangerous,” said Vandenbroucke on VRT’s television programme ‘De Zevende Dag’ on Sunday.

Despite the fact it seems like Omicron is a less severe variant, it is “not just a cold,” he said. “Hospital admissions are increasing abroad. This could be a very disruptive wave of infections for our society. We have to brace ourselves, and we must avoid it.”

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Vandenbroucke stressed that while herd immunity is good at the exit of the epidemic, it should not be the strategy now. “We will all get wet at some point, but that does not mean we should all jump into the water together. If we do that, we will drown. And the companies, GPs and hospitals will also drown.”

The Federal Government is currently preparing for an emergency situation, and the food supply plan that the National Crisis Centre developed during the first wave has now been reactivated.

“The National Crisis Centre holds consultations with the critical sectors, such as transport, energy, finance and water supply,” said Vandenbroucke. “They are closely monitoring what is happening with absences in those sectors. We have continued to work hard on continuity plans for those sectors over the past few days.”

Army on standby

Additionally, the army is on standby to assist in hospitals if needed. “A letter was sent out on Friday containing three scenarios. In function of those scenarios, they have to draw up continuity plans.”

Vandenbroucke also referred to the measures issued by the government before Christmas. “We cannot stop this wave of infections, but it absolutely must be slowed down. We have to stick to the measures and adapt personal behaviour.”

Additionally, he once again defended the new testing strategy, which many people have called confusing, by stressing that the main aim is to keep the test system from collapsing. “If we are no longer able to test people with symptoms of disease, we will lose control completely.”

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