Since the implementation of measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) people have in general stayed within their own postcode, according to data presented by telecoms minister Philippe De Backer (Open VLD).
The figures were derived by the telecoms operators from the calls and other traffic on people’s phones, including apps and social media. The operators stress that the data does not identify individual users by name, address or telephone number.
“This unique cooperation with the telecoms operators offers us an interesting insight in a manner in keeping with privacy concerns,” said De Backer, who chairs the Data against Corona Taskforce.
The results showed that 79% of calls were made from the caller’s own postcode – in Brussels, in the main, the person’s home commune. The number of calls made from outside the home postcode was down by 54%.
“I am pleased with this joint effort by the whole Belgian population to defeat the coronavirus,” De Backer said. “As my colleague Maggie De Block said, We have this virus by the scruff of the neck and we must not let go. We all must keep on working together and stick strictly to the measures in place.”
However, while the figures suggest that most people are abiding by the instruction to stay at home, there is also evidence that some people still do not realise the gravity of the situation, said Yves Stevens, spokesperson for the crisis centre. Police in the days and weeks to come will be carrying out spot checks more often and issuing fines.
“It is now up to all of us to take responsibility and hold to it in the weeks to come,” he said. “We must not cut corners. The absolute priority now is to ensure the health of all of our people, and that will require major efforts from all of us.”
The population has had enough time now to come to terms with the gravity of the situation, he said.
“Everyone now needs to realise how serious things are, and act accordingly.”