Deconfinement: No decision in the next 2 weeks says Health Minister
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Deconfinement: No decision in the next 2 weeks says Health Minister

Credit: Belga

There will be no decision on the possibility of easing Belgium’s lockdown before Christmas for at least two weeks, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the House Committee ahead of today’s meeting of the Consultative Committee.

The meeting – which started at 2:00 PM – will only carry out an assessment of the situation, the Minister explained to the Health and Equal Opportunities Committee. A relaxation or tightening of the rules is therefore not on the agenda. “We hope to agree on a strategy within the next two weeks”, but we are “navigating on sight”, Vandenbroucke acknowledged.

The main objective at the moment remains to avoid the third wave, the minister said. It is for this reason that speculating on how Christmas could play out is currently useless, as any talk on the subject is “absolutely premature”, he insisted.

The Christmas Debate

Experts and politicians have come out on different sides of the Christmas debate, as many wonder how they will be able to celebrate the festive period, if at all. One such voice, virologist Marc Van Ranst, has raised hope that groups can incrementally grow by the end of the year.

“Maybe we can go from 1 to 2 cuddle contacts,” Van Ranst told Radio 1, adding that “it won’t be an ordinary Christmas”.

Van Ranst’s comments came in stark contrast to an urgent plea by Elisabeth De Waele, head of the intensive care unit (ICU) of the UZ Brussel university hospital, who said any major relaxation could be disastrous for the health sector.

“We will have a Christmas rush in the ICU in that case, we won’t be able to do it. Sorry, we can no longer do that,” she said.

De Waele was reacting to statements by Georges-Louis Bouchez, the head of the ruling Francophone liberals (MR), who the day before had said Christmas should not be celebrated “via Skype” and that gatherings of up to four people could still be possible.

Barometer Not Up To The Challenge

Similarly for the barometer, Vandenbroucke has made it clear that he believes it is currently not fit for purpose.  It is “not adapted to the current challenges,” he explained.

Nevertheless, the “inspiration” of this tool, namely “to give the population prospects for a safe situation,” should not be buried, Frank Vandenbroucke said. “We are still thinking about the right instrument to use to get out of the second wave.”

“That barometer was brought up at a time when we believed that we could relax in steps and, that if the crisis hit us again, we could tighten up in steps again. In the meantime, we have learned the lesson that, unfortunately, it is not that simple,” Vandenbroucke said on Tuesday.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times