'Don't panic': Belgian leaders hold off on further measures against coronavirus

'Don't panic': Belgian leaders hold off on further measures against coronavirus
The government's response to the coronavirus outbreak in Belgium must be "proportionate" to its spread in Belgium, government ministers said. © Belga

A meeting between the leaders of Belgium's governments on the ongoing spread of the coronavirus in the country did not result in the adoption of any additional measures.

"The advice remains unchanged," Walloon Minister-President Elio Di Rupo said at the end of a meeting from which officials emerged after nearly two hours of talks, urging the public "not give in to panic."

Representatives of Belgium's three regional governments and of the Flemish and Francophone communities said that the measures taken to stop the spread of the virus must be "proportionate" to the situation in Belgium.

"People with no symptoms must not call their doctors; the laboratories are running; hospitals and [government] ministers are on the move," Di Rupo said, adding: "Citizens must not be afraid."

Since an active infection of the new Covid-19 coronavirus was confirmed in Antwerp at the weekend, the number of cases in Belgium has increased daily, standing at 23 confirmed cases on Wednesday.

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"The situation [in Belgium] is far from being comparable to that in France — we are far from being at a point where school closures are necessary," Minister-President of the Brussels-Wallonia Federation, Yves Jeholet said. "That would make no sense, at this point. What we need are proportionate measures."

French education authorities announced on Tuesday that they were shutting over a hundred schools in the areas that have been the most affected by the viral outbreak.

Di Rupo said that hospitals and medical staff would continue to work as they have been, saying that "they did not need a minister's advice to know what they need to do."

Ministers at the meeting also discussed measures to replenish dwindling stocks of protective medical equipment, namely facemasks, as global demand surges in the face of growing public concern over the epidemic.

Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block said that authorities were looking into the possibility of having Belgian textile companies step up to fill the gap left by waning production in China, the leading maker of face masks.

Alain Maron, Health Minister for the Brussels-Capital Region, said that the situation was being assessed daily and that the measures were likely to evolve, adding that for the time being, no decision had been taken to cancel public events in Brussels.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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