Reopening hairdressers and other contact professions in Belgium on 13 February is "totally unfeasible," according to virologist Marc Van Ranst.
The 13 February date, that was mentioned by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo following the Consultative Committee on Friday, for the restart of contact professions on the condition that the figures evolve favourably, the virologist told Het Laatste Nieuws.
"Without the UK and South African variants, it would have been possible," he said. "But now, it is totally unfeasible."
"You can feel the third wave coming, and we are again going to be surprised by exponentiality of the curve," Van Ranst said, adding that the curve will rise faster than during the second wave, as the variants are more infectious.
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The authorities will make a final decision on whether the reopening can happen as suggested on Friday 5 February, according to De Croo, but Van Ranst stressed that people should not get their hopes up.
According to estimates based on random samples from labs in Leuven and Liège, the UK strain already accounts for roughly 25% of infections in Belgium, he pointed out.
Additionally, Belgium is currently dealing with three epidemics, Van Ranst said: one with what he calls the "normal strain" with normal transmissibility, one with the UK variant and one with the South African one.
"Those last two have recently been brought in by trips abroad," he said. "It would have been avoidable if people had not travelled. The South African one is only in Ostend for now, but the UK one is everywhere and is gaining ground."
"If you combine that with the rising figures, the 'early indicators' such as worrying signals from GPs in the field, and all those outbreaks in schools, residential care centres and hospitals, the only conclusion is that the signs are not favourable," Van Ranst said.
The Brussels Times