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New Flemish measures ‘much too late,’ expert warns

Erika Vlieghe. Credit: Belga

The new coronavirus fighting measures announced by the Flemish government on Tuesday evening should have happened weeks ago, according to infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe.

Following on from Wallonia and Brussels, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon announced new measures late on Tuesday, which will be required to go into effect by 6:00 PM on Friday.

“We are very late. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m happy with every measure that’s been taken. And let’s hope it has an effect. Although I would have preferred to see it a few weeks earlier,” Vlieghe told Radio 1 on Wednesday morning.

“But epidemiologically, we’re much too late. We could have influenced that curve in a completely different way,” Vlieghe added, acknowledging that there are political, logistical and practical reasons that slow the taking of new measures.

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Experts in Belgium have been vocal about the need for more strict measures, and enforcement, for the previous months, but the fact “they weren’t frightening back then,” led to too little being done.

“The beast is getting up, watch out. You have to sound the alarm when the beast opens its eyes, not when it walks around with fire in its mouth. But we weren’t heard then. I literally got the question months ago: ‘Mrs. Vlieghe, what are you talking about?’ Back then there were ‘only’ 70 people in intensive care. But we should have intervened then.”

Vlieghe was just one of many experts who spoke out against current countrywide measures, saying that even though the impact was yet to be seen, stricter rules were definitely necessary.

Speaking on Tuesday, Jambon warned of the need for personal responsibility to avoid a lockdown. “The days of nonchalant behaviour are long behind us. Everyone must now behave responsibly. Otherwise, we are heading for a new lockdown.”

As it stands, no end date has been set for the new restrictions in Flander, with Jambon only explaining that they will last “until we have the curves under control.”

The new measures for Flanders mean that all three regions of Belgium have introduced extra restrictions for higher education, and the culture and sports sector. However, while Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region also extended the curfew – from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM -, Flanders stuck with the federal measure, from midnight to 5:00 AM.

For a full explainer of the new Flemish measures, click here.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times