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    Why Belgium ignored calls to shrink social bubbles 

    Credit: Belga

    Long expected changes to Belgium’s current coronavirus fighting measures will continue to allow people to have social circles of up to 15 people, against the advice of experts circulated in previous days.

    Despite calls earlier in the day to urgently reduce the size of groups if Belgium wants to stop a second coronavirus wave, the wide changes to measures within the country announced on Thursday by Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès steered clear of the rules on groups.

    “If we strictly maintain the bubble of 15 people, we will be able to keep our social bubble, that is so important to us all,” Wilmès said. The decision followed discussions with the evaluation cell of the Federal Crisis Centre, CELEVAL, which suggested a decrease of the social bubble might be advantageous.

    “CELEVAL proposed to allow a social circle of 10 people,” Wilmès said. “We thoroughly discussed: why 10? Why do we not stick to 15, when we know that the flare-up has to do with people not respecting the current measures?”

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    “We also know that there are people who do follow the guidelines for 15, and those people would be punished if we decrease the social bubble.”

    Wilmès added that moving from 15 to 10 social contacts would constitute a “message,” while she feels that the measures announced today are sufficient in expressing that the situation is serious.

    Virologist Marc Van Ranst expressed regret at the decision, explaining on national television that to decrease the social bubble to 10 contacts “would have been a very strong signal.”

    “We know that many people respect the bubbles of 15 contacts, but many do not follow the rule at all,” Van Ranst said.

    Amée Zoutberg
    The Brussels Times