Belgian epidemiologist wants influencers to raise coronavirus awareness
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Belgian epidemiologist wants influencers to raise coronavirus awareness

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An epidemiologist in Brussels is seeking to enlist social media influencers to help spread awareness about the dire coronavirus situation in Belgium.

In an urgent plea on Twitter, Marius Gilbert an epidemiologist at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), called on influencers to use their platforms to raise awareness and keep hospitals from collapse.

“Those who have 100, 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram or [Twitter]. Those who see people every day, help us, help yourselves!” Gilbert wrote.

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“It is one minute to midnight,” he said, adding that influencers’ mastery of communication codes and norms that “eluded experts” could be key as hospitals lingered “on the verge of collapse.”

In a string of messages, each more impassioned than the other, Gilbert referred to the mask as the “coronavirus’ condom” and urged influencers to encourage its use and to help spread the word that respect for the measures imposed was vital for any potential return to normal.

“Help us build understanding that giving up one party is not like giving up on life, on friendship or on love. That it’s temporary, that it will pass, and that protecting the most vulnerable among us is an act of solidarity and humanity.”

Gilbert’s plea comes hours after the Belgian government issued a new round of restrictions, this time curbing sports and culture, only one week after all bars and restaurants in the country were ordered to shut down.

In a press conference on Friday morning, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke also announced that all hospitals had been required to postpone non-urgent and planned interventions to free up capacity for Covid-19 patients.

Gilbert’s calls to influencers come as health experts on Friday recorded an average of 10,000 new daily infections and said that over 500 patients in the intensive care unit with Covid-19.

“This means that more than 1 in 100 Belgians would be infectious,” Steven Van Gucht, a virologist with federal health institute Sciensano said, and that, by the end of the week, they expected the country to record 20,000 per day.

The incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants recorded this week also more than doubled in comparison to the previous 14-day period, Sciensano’s figures show.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times