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Closing Brussels’ bars came too late, experts warn

© Belga

Brussels’ decision to close down all bars for a month is a step in the right direction but came too late to halt the soaring rate of new coronavirus infections in the Belgian capital.

Officials said on Wednesday that all hospitals in the region were already under stress and had begun transferring patients to hospitals outside Brussels.

“Just closing the cafes is not enough for me,” Kenneth Coenye at Cliniques Saint-Jean in Brussels said. “I am also not convinced that the problem really lies there.”

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As restrictions on social contacts and early-closing times for bars elsewhere in Belgium were announced on Tuesday, Coenye told De Morgen that it remained to be seen whether the measures would help avoid overburdening hospitals.

“We will only be able to let you know within two weeks whether it will be sufficient to avoid overloading,” Coenye said on Twitter.

Officials with national health institute Sciensano said on Wednesday that Brussels was already second among other European capitals in terms of new daily infections, coming only after hard-hit Madrid.

Erika Vlieghe, a leading virologist advising the government, said that the new Brussels measures also needed to be paired with more efforts to raise awareness among the public.

“The measures should have come earlier. But it is good that they are here now,” Vlieghe said. “I also think it is important that the new measures are accompanied by an information campaign to reach people of all ages and backgrounds.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times