On Monday morning, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo spoke on La Première radio station about the recently-announced coronavirus measures and, in particular, on the probability that traditional end of year celebrations will be able to proceed.
Friday’s Consultative Committee saw a raft of new measures announced that aim to curb the spread of the coronavirus by limiting the number of contacts people have in all areas of daily life. And as Belgium continues to record alarming infection and hospitalisation figures, the social gatherings that are normally typical of festive celebrations have been cast into doubt.
The Prime Minister refrained from ruling them out entirely but stressed the need for every individual to play their part in limiting social contacts and respecting the measures put in place: “The one certainty that we can rely on is the impact of our personal behaviour.” Alongside being careful to respect social distancing measures, De Croo also reiterated the need for residents to sign up for the third/booster doses – something that those living in the Brussels-Capital Region can do already.
The Prime Minister also made explicit the difference between the present restrictive measures and previous lockdowns: “There is one simple reason that we are not, yet again, in an outright lockdown and that is thanks to the vaccine rollout.” When asked why some of the stricter measures recommended by the committee of medical experts (GEMS) – such as limiting the number of people who can enter shops (a measure that was imposed last year) – were not adopted, De Croo explained that the driving thought-process behind the decisions was to “ensure that life can continue but with additional security measures.”
When quizzed on the topic of mandatory vaccinations – a subject that is increasingly discussed – the Prime Minister was measured in his suggestions and emphasised the need to convince everyone of the benefits of the vaccine, rather than imposing the measure. On the topic of those who are still hesitant to receive the vaccine, the Prime Minister said that “they are mistaken but that doesn’t mean that we should no longer make an effort to persuade them of the benefits.”
Caution needed in all daily activities
De Croo also was at pains to highlight the need for efforts to be made in all areas of public life. Given the inherently social nature of December festivities, the hospitality sector is perhaps the most obviously affected by the recent restrictions with some businesses, such as nightclubs, being obliged to cancel all planned events and close for at least three weeks.
The Prime Minister again said that financial support will be provided to affected sectors but also impressed the need to adhere to measures not only in our social lives, but also at work, school, and any other situation where there is contact with people external to one’s household.