Life may never again be the way it was back in January and February, before the first cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) arrived in Belgium, according to federal health minister Maggie De Block.
Speaking on the VRT political programme De Zevende Dag, De Block warned that the relaxation of some of the lockdown measures due to take place this week might give people a reason to think of a return to normality in the near future.
“We’re all now dreaming of normal life,” she said. “But we have to realise that normal life may well never resume as it was.”
There is a danger, she explained, in assuming a little more freedom signals complete freedom. But it remains essential that restrictions are maintained and observed by the public.
The ability to visit friends and relations at home and be visited, within the limits of the rules – only four people, always the same four people, they visit you and you visit them, social distancing at all times – is a major step compared to life in the past eight weeks, but people still have to use common sense.
“Think carefully, because every contact can have consequences,” she said. “It is difficult not to hug that grandchild you haven’t seen for so long. It goes against all of our instincts. But it is important all the same to maintain a distance, even indoors.”
Earlier, virologist Professor Marc Van Ranst had described reports of increased social activity outdoors as “not encouraging,” and warned that disregarding the limits could lead us into a new lockdown even more rigid than the last.
Professor Steven Van Gucht of the corona crisis centre, meanwhile, highlighted another problem.
People out in the open, he said, naturally have a wariness towards strangers, but indoors with people we know, inhibitions fall away.
“We are not really afraid of friends and family. However, the risks of contact are greater precisely with those people with whom we get on much more familiarly,” he explained.
“Shops can be well organized: by wearing masks, by keeping a distance, with facilities to protect staff, I am more afraid of private contacts. The motto now should be: stay at home with even minor symptoms or after contact with someone with symptoms. Hopefully we can keep that up for as long as it takes.”