Covid-19 measures: tensions among Belgium’s coronavirus experts
Share article:
Share article:

Covid-19 measures: tensions among Belgium’s coronavirus experts

Health economist Lieven Annemans. © Belga

A difference of opinion is creating tension between some of the members of Celeval, the evaluation cell made up of experts whose job is to advise the government on epidemic policy, De Morgen reports.

The cell met yesterday, and the debate became heated, particularly in relation to one issue: whether or not the measures in place to stop the spread of the disease should be tightened in the face of a continuing upturn in the number of infections.

In general, the members of the panel who are medical experts are in favour of a purely epidemiological approach, in doing whatever it takes to bring the numbers down. On the other side, there are those who would shy away from tough measures which, as time goes on, are less and less likely to be followed by large portions of the population.

Better to impose measures that have public support than go by the book and have the measures widely ignored, in other words.

The clash was particularly hard between health economist Lieven Annemans of Ghent university and the hard-liners, who accuse him of minimising the seriousness of the virus.

Professor Marc Van Ranst, on the medical side, posted his view on Twitter, all but criticising Annemans by name.

All virologists are warning unanimously that things are moving in the wrong direction, as the number of new cases has gone up 75% in one week, and our R-number is 1.4. A health economist vehemently denies that there are currently more cases, and thinks we need to relax. Good luck!”

Annemans had expressed the view that the number of new cases is shadowing the growing number of tests, stressing the importance of the rate of positive cases as a percentage of tests, rather than a bare number.

Annemans himself took to Twitter.

How should we best deal with the virus at this stage? A. with a culture of fear, drama, misleading figures, disproportionate measures? B. with vigilance, serenity, correct numbers, balanced measures? I would have preferred B,” he posted.

Infectious diseases expert Erika Vlieghe, who previously chaired the Celeval’s predecessor GEES, declined to comment when approached by De Morgen.

Civil servant Karine Moykens, secretary-general of the Flemish region’s department of public health, took a conciliatory tone.

I see Celeval as a group of people who all have the same goal: to ensure that we can present a proposal that has the best chance of being supported,” she told the paper.

If you have to come to a consensus with a large number of people, it makes sense for opinions to clash with each other. I don’t see anything negative about it.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Coronavirus: Ending the pandemic is ‘a choice,’ says WHO chief
The Covid-19 pandemic will end “when the world chooses to end it” because “all the tools” are now available to fight the virus, the World Health ...
‘Can’t keep count’: Instagram page for sexual assault testimonies overwhelmed
An Instagram account compiling testimonies in an effort to give a voice to victims of sexual violence in bars and nightclubs has been overwhelmed ...
Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...
Federal museums to receive €2.9 million booster shot
Federal museums will receive an additional €2.9 million in support from the government for the fiscal year 2021, of which the first payouts will be ...
European Parliament emphasises healthy food and animal welfare in EU Farm to Fork Strategy
The European Parliament adopted this week a resolution on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy calling for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food ...
Threats of strike action could affect Brussels’ STIB network from Monday
Brussels public transport operator STIB's trams, buses and metros could be affected from Monday 25 October onwards as the union representing the ...
Number of international adoptions in Belgium continues to drop
The number of regulated international adoptions authorised by Belgium further dropped in 2020, continuing an ongoing decreasing trend. Last ...
Disaster drill with emergency services held at Brussels Airport
Around 300 people took part in a disaster drill held was organised on Saturday by Brussels Airport in collaboration with external emergency services ...
Austria presents bill to legalise euthanasia
Austria’s government on Saturday presented its proposals for legalising assisted suicide, in response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the ...
Brussels’ Museum Night Fever draws in some 12,000 visitors
Some 12,000 participants took part in the 14th edition of Museum Night Fever in Brussels, with the 29 participating museums filled to the maximum ...