The coronavirus is harming society and people’s health, not the measures being implemented to keep the virus from spreading, health officials stressed during a press conference on Wednesday.
New advice on measures for Belgium’s National Security Council, which is set to take place in the middle of next week, is currently being prepared, according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.
“It is primarily the virus that harms our health and society, not the measures. We may not mistake the wrong one for the enemy,” Van Gucht said. “There are many opinions, and a great deal of pressure on all sides. That is normal, but this cannot distract us from the continuing seriousness of the situation.”
The measures in force, Van Gucht said, serve to help us, but he also said that they must be effective and balanced, referring to the face mask rule that is being contested in many places. “It is a continuous process of improvement.”
Additionally, Van Gucht addressed recent suggestions and open letters, including by doctors, that the virus has become less dangerous.
“As a virologist, I can confirm that the virus has not changed. It is still exactly the same virus, with the same characteristics as the one that flooded our hospitals in March and April,” he said. “That is a fact.”
However, the context has changed some, he conceded, as most infections are currently being detected in younger people, who have milder symptoms.
“It is true that Covid-19 causes relatively few problems for part of the population, but for many others it can still be a serious illness, with a long recovery period,” Van Gucht said, adding that about one-third of the population (roughly 3.5 million people) belong to a high-risk group.
Additionally, there are still no drugs that can prevent people from becoming severely ill and ending up in the hospital. “Fortunately, however, we do have better treatments for the people who are already in hospital. As a result, the chances of surviving a serious infection have indeed increased.”
But that does not change that people are getting sick enough to have to go to the hospital in the first place, he said, adding that more elderly people are becoming infected as well.
“The virus infiltrates our society like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the pressure continues to be built up,” Van Gucht said, pointing to calculations by the UHasselt, which predict that Belgium will see about 1,200 infections per day within a week, and 1,600 within two weeks, if the current trend continues.
The best weapon we have are still the existing golden rules, such as keeping the necessary distance, restricting your contacts and washing your hands regularly, he said.