Belgium prepares ‘plan C’ to fight UK coronavirus variant

Belgium prepares ‘plan C’ to fight UK coronavirus variant
© Gabriela Galindo/The Brussels Times

Belgium’s group of experts, which advises the government on how to deal with the pandemic, is preparing a comprehensive plan for if the coronavirus situation worsens dramatically.

On Thursday, a ‘plan B’ in case the coronavirus figures start to go up again was discussed with several experts and ministers, with a possible extra “cooling-off” week for schools, right before or after spring break, in the form of distance learning.

However, the experts also want to be prepared for a dramatic deterioration in the situation, such as in the United Kingdom, where a more infectious variant of the coronavirus saw the country return to strict lockdown measures.

Belgium also needs a ‘plan C,’ in which rapid action could be taken throughout society to limit contacts and prevent the spread of the virus, according to biostatistician Geert Molenberghs.

“If it happens, we must be ready,” he told VRT News. “And then, it is better to have a clearly discussed plan on the table, rather than take panic-y decisions in the heat of the moment.”

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In Belgium, only four infections with this variant circulating strongly in the UK have been found, said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht during a press conference on Monday.

“Those cases were already found in November,” he said. “Their number has not risen in the meantime, despite the fact that we are definitely searching.”

According to Molenberghs, there is currently “no indication” that the UK variant is circulating strongly in Belgium. “But it is circulating in more than 40 countries in the world now, so we should certainly not be naive,” he said.

A similar lockdown scenario as in the UK has to be averted as much as possible. “However, if that variant begins community transmission, we must be ready to intervene as vigorously and as quickly as possible to prevent worse,” Molenberghs added.

The broad outlines of the plan will be presented to Belgium’s various governments on Friday afternoon, during the meeting of the Consultative Committee.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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