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Belgium needs stricter measures soon, says Steven Van Gucht

Credit: Belga
Credit: Belga

Even though Belgium only announced new measures against the spread of the coronavirus last week, stricter rules are needed in certain areas and regions of the country, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht.

“We are in a very nerve-racking period right now,” Van Gucht told The Brussels Times. The latest restrictions have only been in force since Monday, and the effect will not be seen until the end of the month.

“I think that ‘lockdown’ is a very big word, but I would certainly argue for stricter measures,” he said. “Particularly in the areas and regions where the biggest difference can be made to break this infection chain.”

Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region are currently the hardest-hit regions in all of Europe. The provinces of Liège, Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, and the Brussels-Capital Region are particularly hard-hit, according to Van Gucht.

“The question is: do we need to take additional measures, or are we relying on the population to respect the measures that were already announced sufficiently?” he said. “It is a bit like playing poker.”

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However, he stressed that these are political decisions, and that each measure comes with complications and side-effects, but “the risk is too great to do nothing.”

Van Gucht, however, is not convinced that a complete lockdown – even a regional one – is the only option left, as microbiologist Emmanuel André said on Wednesday. “I think you can still tighten up other measures, so that parts of society can still continue to operate,” he said.

“I think we have to be very strict about everything that concerns social gatherings, where people meet outside their normal bubble,” he said. “For a shorter period of time, this measure can be very strict.”

Additionally, stricter measures for universities and university colleges could also be a good idea. “They must make maximum use of distance learning, and above all, communicate very clearly to students that they have to make a choice: either they always stay in their student housing, or they stay at home,” Van Gucht said.

The most important thing is to prevent the virus from entering a household, he said. “Once someone in the family is infected, it often becomes difficult to stop the virus from spreading,” he said, especially in families living in small homes, possibly with several generations under the same roof.

Even though it is difficult to monitor how many others people invite and see in their own home, Van Gucht said that he thinks people understand the gravity of the situation now, especially considering the calls from hospitals who are nearing their maximum capacity.

While putting the country on lockdown would have the same effect of breaking the infection chain, it is a “very absolute” measure, according to Van Gucht.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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