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Exit plan: Belgian intensive care doctors afraid of 4 May

"As a human being, I am relieved that the economy is starting up again. As a doctor, I am a little scared," said Meyfroidt. Credit: Belga

Intensive care doctors are afraid of what will happen on 4 May, when the first phase of the exit plan out of Belgium’s lockdown will start.

“If we do not abide by the basic rules, we can get in trouble again very quickly,” said Geert Meyfroidt, professor and intensivist at the university hospital of Leuven, in “Vandaag” (video) on Wednesday, saying that the new coronavirus (Covid-19) could flare up again.

On Wednesday, Belgium’s National Security Council confirmed that the first step of the exit plan could start as planned on 4 May, following several days of the number of new hospital admissions below 200, and the number of patients on intensive care even dropping below 800.

In practice, this means that many companies will be allowed to restart their activities, even though telework remains the norm. Cycling or going for a walk in a group of three will also be allowed again, as well as practising some sports in pairs, in the open air. Additionally, public transport will also resume its usual activities, but the use of face masks is mandatory.

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“As a human being, I am relieved that the economy is starting up again. As a doctor, I am a little scared,” said Meyfroidt. “When the outbreak started, we made sure the hospitals were empty. Now, it’s different. There are still people in those special departments,” he added.

“Hopefully, we will see it in time if the figures start to rise again, because it is only days after the relaxing of the second measure (the reopening of all stores on 11 May) that we will know the impact of the first one,” Meyfroidt added.

The basic rules remain important, he stressed. Keeping your distance from others and regularly washing your hands will go a long way. “If we can continue to comply with these rules in a disciplined way, then we will succeed, and we will be allowed to do more sooner rather than later. If we do not do that, we could get in trouble again,” Meyfroidt added.

On top of that, the long days are beginning to weigh on the hospital staff. “I’m tired, but satisfied,” said Meyfroidt. “We have a very abnormal life now. Everyone has extra work, holidays have been cancelled, and there is much more to it than just caring for the patients,” he added.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times