Brussels is planning the creation of a number of Covid-safe zones, in an attempt to develop protocols that would allow the city to return to a more or less normal life after the immediate emergency of the pandemic is over.
In an interview this weekend with De Standaard and L’Echo newspapers, Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close (PS) explains how his reflections on how to lead the city out of the Covid tunnel into the light led him to contact Professor Nathan Clumeck, an infectious diseases expert from the Free University ULB.
The project led to the development of a plan to test the post-pandemic protocols in a number of safe areas – concert hall La Madeleine, two schools, two catering establishments, a sports hall, a cinema and an auditorium of the ULB – to determine what would be required to keep those areas Covid-safe even when organising events and other gatherings.
“Specifically, we will make sure that those buildings are well ventilated and that the distance rules can always be respected,” explained Prof. Clumeck.
“Of course everyone will always have to wear medical face masks inside.”
Close is confident it can be done, and claims a historical precedent.
“At the end of the nineteenth century, the then city council of Brussels decided to cover over the Zenne, which ran right through the city. Used as an open sewer, the river was a source of cholera. Through that adjustment, the city managed to return to normal life.”
“By fighting the virus intelligently, we hope to be able to reopen the city in a safe way,” Prof. Clumeck said.
The measures in the Covid-safe zones would then be evaluated alongside the rate of infections of those attending, to see if those can be kept to a safe level.
“We are not naive about this. There will still be infections. The virus will continue to circulate for a long time. The question is: do we want to keep waiting to organise events again? Or do we want to use all available technology so that we can organise events and at the same time keep the number of infections under control?”
In reply, Close is calling on the private sector to come up with solutions, as well as exploring cooperation with Finance&invest Brussels, the region’s investment organ, for the possible financing of renovations where they may be needed.
“We see what we want to do in Brussels as a supplement to mass vaccinations,” Close said. “Our protocols are certainly not intended to replace vaccinations. But even after mass inoculation, the virus will not disappear immediately. We also need to take other measures. What we certainly do not want is for another lockdown to come after the next reopening.”