'Cheering too soon again': Pandemic is not over yet, Corona Commissioner warns

'Cheering too soon again': Pandemic is not over yet, Corona Commissioner warns
Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon (left) with Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. Credit: Belga

The Belgian population should make sure that it does not start celebrating the end of the pandemic too soon, the way it already did a few times before, said Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon on Sunday.

In the run-up to the Consultative Committee on Friday 4 March, Facon will advise the authorities to switch to 'code yellow' on the coronavirus barometer, he still wants to keep the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) in place.

"Once again, we are cheering too soon. The pandemic is not over yet. We must not keep making the same mistakes," Facon said in an interview with De Zondag. "Last year, we thought that the so-called 'kingdom of freedom' was coming, but that proved to be premature. Today, we are again underestimating the virus. We must remain aware of the risks."

Sill, he made it clear that he is in favour of switching to 'code yellow' on the barometer, mainly because the pressure on the hospitals is decreasing strongly. "I have my advice [for the Consultative Committee of Friday] ready. It would be best to let that take effect the week after."

'Have to be ready for new variants'

However, Facon stressed that it would also be "wise" to keep some measures in place, such as face masks in the healthcare sector and public transport, as well as compulsory CO2 meters.

"You know, I am not so much worried about the short term. Today, things are going well and perhaps they will go well until after the summer," he stressed. "But after that, there will be new variants and perhaps flare-ups. We have to be ready for that."

While one of the most important changes of the switch to 'code yellow' is the abolition of the CST, Facon believes that the tool should not be thrown away entirely.

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"The name is wrong: it is not a 100% safe ticket, but the coronavirus certificate indeed remains an important instrument of our defence. So I would certainly not throw it away," he said. "Those who have been vaccinated have a lower chance of becoming infected and of passing on the virus. That has been proven. But we should not make the mistake of last year and think that it will solve everything."

Facon said that he is convinced that, at some point, the coronavirus will no longer disrupt society, "but we are not there yet," he said. "We have to realise that the pandemic is not over. That is my message. There are still thousands of infections and almost 200 hospitalisations a day."

An overview of the different phases of the barometer and the different measures can be found here.

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