Van Ranst: whoever leaked lockdown recommendations is ‘playing with people’s lives’
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Van Ranst: whoever leaked lockdown recommendations is ‘playing with people’s lives’

Van Ranst called the leak "irresponsible, reprehensible and almost criminal behaviour." Credit: Belga

Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst has expressed his anger after a draft proposal of experts’ advice for leaving the lockdown was widely shared in the country.

First published by Le Soir, then widely spread by the Belga News Agency, the leak provided details of the recommendations included in a draft by the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES). On Friday, the National Security Council will meet again to discuss the next phase of the lockdown.

The report, which recommended a partial reopening of businesses and shops from 4 May and a return to school from 18 May, is only a draft version, Van Ranst stressed to VRT, who also called the leak “irresponsible, reprehensible and almost criminal.”

“This is one of the versions that has been on the table for the past few weeks. Things have been deleted and things have been added. This has not been fully checked with politicians and it is certainly not the final result of the expert group,” he told De Morgen.

The leak does not come from someone in the GEES group, Van Ranst said, who also added that it is normal that such a report starts circulating in certain circles after it has been presented. “But leaks to the press, that’s a step too far. This was done deliberately, and not with good intentions,” Van Ranst said.

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“This is not a game. Whoever leaked this is playing with people’s lives,” he said, adding that this is how wrong and false expectations are created.

The final version of the report can be spread online as much as people want, according to Van Ranst. “But this is a draft version. By leaking this, the work and communication of hardworking experts are being made impossible,” he added.

The expert report is still being considered, according to Erika Vlieghe, who heads the GEES. “We are working, in all serenity, to come up with a supported plan,” she told Gazet van Antwerpen. “The fact that there is a leak now is highly counterproductive. It does not lead to anything constructive,” she added.

“Leaking such a document is criminal,” said Kristof Calvo, federal group leader of Groen/Ecolo, on Twitter, adding that he was asking the Prime Minister to investigate the leak.

Earlier, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès had also expressed her displeasure about the leak. “Meetings are still ongoing, including at the level of the experts themselves. Extreme caution is therefore required. The answers will come on Friday; not before,” Wilmès’ cabinet said.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times