Failure to follow the rules could mean a return to lockdown zero
Sunday, 10 May 2020
No sooner had the measures agreed this week to relax somewhat the rules on confinement in the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19), but reports were coming in that people were returning to their old ways, gathering outside, ignoring social distancing and so on.
People were visiting friends regardless of the ‘rule of four’ which limits who and how many may visit. In the fine weather, gatherings were taking place in squares and parks. As one newspaper put it, “Each measure has become quietly personalised, either consciously or because we still don’t really understand all that well.”
“It has been a difficult week,” commented Geert Meyfroidt, president of the Belgian Association of Intensive Care Medicine. I am exhausted. Because of this behaviour, there is a risk that it will start all over again. I do not want that.”
Since the lockdown measures were first introduced in March, police have issues 36,000 fines for breaking the rules. However analysis of the movements of the population based on GSM data shows that people have generally adhered to the rules.
The new relaxation could be dangerous if people take it too far, warned virologist Marc Van Ranst of Leuven university, who has become somewhat the face of the crisis.
Speaking at a debate organised by the VRT and Het Laatste Nieuws on Saturday, Van Ranst said, “On the one hand, this is regrettable. On the other hand, the people who are not [at such gathering] are following the rules. It is our responsibility to make something of it. By that I mean all citizens together. We are a people that makes its own way. We don’t have much confidence in the government. It is up to us to ensure that the curve does not start climbing again.”
And he had advice for the law-abiding majority.
“The intention was to introduce a little bit of relaxation of the rules. You have to be able to state that in one sentence. That’s where it goes wrong. I know many people who say, We’re going to stay as we are. We are doing nothing more than what we have been doing in recent weeks. Maybe that’s a good idea.”