‘Not much room’ for extra measures against UK variant, says Jambon
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‘Not much room’ for extra measures against UK variant, says Jambon

Credit: Belga

There are not a lot of extra measures Belgium can take to stop the UK coronavirus variant from overrunning the country, according to Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon.

The more infectious UK variant will be dominant by the end of February or the beginning of March if there are no new measures or changes in people’s behaviour, a recent report showed.

However, there is no reason to panic based on the current figures, according to Jambon. “There is a slight upward trend, but we are not in the big numbers yet,” he said on Radio 1 on Thursday morning.

With a curfew, the obligation to telework where possible and the ban on non-essential travel already in force, “there is not much room to take additional measures,” Jambon said.

“I choose the option of enforcing the current measures. We have been very strict for a long time, you also have to be able to maintain support among the population,” he said.

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“The authorities want to keep businesses and schools open, and make sure the healthcare system does not collapse,” Jambon stressed, referring to this week’s decision to tighten rules for children’s extracurricular activities in an effort to keep schools open.

The focus should be on making sure everyone complies with the current measures. “Everything is closed already, more or less. We also have to keep an eye on mental health and not let the economy collapse.”

According to former Covid-19 spokesperson Emmanuel André, however, taking further measures is essential.

“If we do take steps, we might be able to postpone the third wave a bit. In this way we buy time to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible,” he said. “That’s the game, if you want to call it that, that’s going on right now.”

While it is true that most of the neighbouring countries currently have stricter measures in force, Jambon pointed out that this is because their figures are worse than in Belgium, and that similar curfew would not be understood or complied with by large parts of the population.

“With this more infectious variant, what we have to focus on is going into quarantine and isolating ourselves if we are infected,” Jambon said. “And lots of testing. That is the direction we have to go.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times