The only way to contain the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) is to impose a lockdown in Antwerp, medical expert Dirk Devroey said on Sunday.
“I’m afraid we need to be very strict with the District of Antwerp, which accounts for 55% of the new infections,” said Devroey, a Professor of Medicine and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacology at the Free University of Brussels (VUB).
“No one will like it but we need to go back to a situation where people can only go out to get food or go to the doctor,” he added. “The house is on fire.”
Noting that the incidence of the Coronavirus has shot up to 77 infections per 100,000 residents, Devroey noted that “in Germany, a district that has more than 50 infections for every 100,000 inhabitants is locked down.” No other decision is possible, he stressed.
The decision should have been taken a long time ago, Devroey said, adding that “the outbreak is spreading. In the long term, the whole of Flanders, or perhaps even the whole of Belgium risks being on lockdown.”
He noted that Flanders had 22 new infections per week for 100,000 inhabitants, while the comparative figures for Brussels and Wallonia were 13 and 11 respectively.
“If we do not deliver this message, if the authorities do not intervene, we’re heading for a scenario of generalized confinement,” he warned.
Devroey regretted the fact that a lockdown hurts the economy, but “human lives cannot be assessed in euros,” he said. “For our image abroad, but also in the eyes of the citizens, indecision comes at a heavy cost.”
He welcomed Saturday’s decision by the Antwerp Province crisis cell to limit the social contact bubble to 10 persons for the next four weeks, but cautioned that this “should apply to the entire country” while “Antwerp should be under total lockdown.”
“Right now you need to be very courageous not to take any decision,” Devroey said. “That’s not responsible towards citizens and voters.”
He doubted that a local lockdown might lead to laxity elsewhere in the country. “It could be a sign, a warning of the threat of a lockdown,” he said.