Belgium could switch to 'code orange' next Friday, says Vandenbroucke

Belgium could switch to 'code orange' next Friday, says Vandenbroucke
Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (left) with Prrime Minister Alexander De Croo. Credit: Belga

Belgium will likely be able to switch to 'code orange' on the coronavirus barometer on Friday 18 February, said Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke on Wednesday morning.

The barometer currently indicates 'code red' for the entire country, but Vandenbroucke said on Flemish radio that he is seeing some important signals to go to 'code orange' soon.

"In terms of the number of people who end up in intensive care, that is already very clearly in the orange," he said, referring to the total number of Covid-19 patients on ICU, which has to be below the 500 threshold and is currently 431.

"We are still very much in the red in terms of the number of people who end up in hospital every day. But we expect that to improve significantly as the number of infections decreases," said Vandenbroucke.

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To switch to code orange, the number of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital every day should be between 65 and 149. On Wednesday, Belgium still registered an average of 324 per day, but the trend is dropping rather quickly.

"When I look at that, I think we can propose at the Consultative Committee on Friday that we go to code orange a week later," Vandenbroucke said. "That means on 18 February. That is what is on the table."

In practice, this means that bars and restaurants will no longer have a closing time, that the capacity for the audience in the events and culture sector becomes more flexible, and that nightlife can restart again.

Not waiting for permission

In the Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon, Vandenbroucke called switching to orange "the only relevant decision" that could be made. He did point out, however, that these relaxations will still be accompanied by certain conditions, such as guaranteed air quality and ventilation.

Earlier on Wednesday, the entire Belgian nightlife sector already announced that clubs would reopen on 18 February regardless of what the Consultative Committee decides, as the sector has no confidence in the Government's barometer.

The ministers will meet on Friday from 14:00 to evaluate the epidemiological situation and discuss the possible switch to the next phase of the barometer. An overview of the barometer's different phases and conditions can be found here.

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