'Much too early' to increase contact bubbles, stresses Belgium's top virologist

'Much too early' to increase contact bubbles, stresses Belgium's top virologist
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It is much too early to relax the bubble of 5 at Belgium's next National Security Council on Thursday, virologist Marc Van Ranst stressed on Twitter on Tuesday.

As Belgium's figures for new coronavirus infections have started to decrease again, the call to allow more social contact has been growing louder, among others, by shopkeepers who say the sector will "slowly bleed to death" without relaxations.

"The epidemic curve in our country is going down a little bit, and immediately comes the demand for an increase in the 'bubbles.' It is too early! I will say it again: it is too early!" Van Ranst wrote.

On Monday, the Crisis Centre reported the first decrease in Belgium's new coronavirus figures since the measures were tightened. However, an average of 533 new cases per day is still being recorded.

Additionally, despite a downwards trend at a national level, the figures for the Brussels-Capital Region continues to increase, with experts even going so far as to say that Brussels could become the new "centre of gravity" for the virus in the country.

Infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe, chair of the Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES), also said that people should not count on too many relaxations following the National Security Council on Thursday.

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"You cannot open everything at the same time. Been there, done that," she said on national radio, referring to the situation in July, when the new cases started going up again after people were allowed to see 15 different others per week.

"Last week, a very clear choice was made to give priority to education, and to open up education as much as possible," Vlieghe said. "You cannot divide a cake into an infinite number of pieces. If you choose one important matter where you open up something new, you may have to balance it with a number of other matters."

Besides social contacts, the cultural sector is also hoping for an increase in the number of attendees allowed at events, as they saw their crowds halved instead of doubled following the previous Security Council.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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