Four Belgian coronavirus experts are under police protection, Van Ranst says

Four Belgian coronavirus experts are under police protection, Van Ranst says
© Belga

As many as four coronavirus experts in Belgium are currently under police protection, a top Belgian virologist said on Wednesday.

"Four Covid experts are currently receiving police protection. Four!" virologist Marc Van Ranst tweeted on Wednesday evening.

Van Ranst, who has been advising the government on managing the coronavirus pandemic, is no longer a core member of the newly revamped advisory committee.

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Throughout the pandemic, he upheld a highly public profile, frequently tweeting out remarks and advice and giving interviews on Belgium's response to the crisis.

In mid-July, Van Ranst announced that he had been put under police protection himself following threats made against him, with police telling him they were aware of "tangible plans" targetting him by right-wing extremists.

"The police come by every hour," he said at the time. "That's the price you pay, my family is used to it."

Van Ranst said that he had become used to getting threats and insults on social media, but added that he was put under police protection following a threat that police noticed themselves.

"I don't know any names, but I know it comes from the far-right corner," he said. "And I don't know exactly what the threat entails."

In his tweet, Van Ranst linked to an interview on religious and right-wing extremism of the chief of Belgium's counterterrorism agency OCAD/OCAM, suggesting that right-wing extremists were again who the experts were being protected from.

"Right-wing extremists use the same methods as Salafists: conspiracy theories to demonise their opponent (...)," Van Ranst wrote in the tweet.

Two spokespersons for the federal police said they could not confirm or deny whether they were currently providing protection to any coronavirus experts.

"We do not communicate on this subject," one press officer said. "[Van Ranst's] comments are his own, and I cannot confirm or deny them."

"Be it for the coronavirus experts or any other type of protections, we prefer not to give any details or communicate about the people who could currently be under the protection of the police," spokesperson Sandra Eyschen said.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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