Leader of the Flemish liberal Open VLD party Egbert Lachaert has criticised Belgium’s coronavirus experts for “spreading uncertainties around” on television.
The experts’ “often contradictory, always pessimistic” communication does not help with keeping the population’s motivation up, Lachaert said on Flemish radio on Friday morning.
“They are present in all programmes, every day, every evening,” he said, adding that virologists and other experts should be careful about what they say on television. “You can feel that people are having a very hard time, and we should be trying to communicate coherently.”
He stressed that the contradictory messages often following in the days after a press conference by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who is part of the same political party as Lachaert, do not help.
“Scientific reflections can be made, of course, but I was annoyed by the information that was thrown around about the variants and vaccines, among other things,” he said. “[The experts] should not be throwing around uncertainties if they don’t know themselves. Be careful now that we are at a breaking point with the people.”
According to him, the sudden and unannounced extension of the coronavirus measures until 1 March has had a big impact on people’s mental wellbeing, but “perfection does not exist, and everybody makes mistakes.”
On Thursday, the leader of Open VLD’s Francophone counterpart, MR, Georges-Louis Bouchez also expressed his displeasure, in particular about virologist Marc Van Ranst’s statement that there actually are “no prospects” for the reopening of hairdressers anytime soon.
“If you want to do politics, you should get into politics,” Bouchez tweeted. “Health first. But please, objectivity, scientific studies, creativity and attention to mental health.”
He added that Van Ranst should communicate less and that the “paid experts” should conform more to political decisions.
On VRT programme ‘Terzake,’ Van Ranst called the criticism “very disappointing,” adding that the experts have been working very hard for the past year, and “have not yet received a euro for this. We are not waiting for that either.”
“The mistake Mr Bouchez is making is that he thinks academics are consultants who you can pay and who will keep quiet,” Van Ranst said. “We will continue to give our opinion based on the facts, whatever Bouchez says.”
On Twitter, former interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson for Sciensano Emmanuel André that “when a party leader personally attacks a scientist because he does not like the facts he exposes, we go back centuries.”
Quand un président de parti attaque personnellement un scientifique parce que les faits qu’il expose ne lui plaisent pas, on retombe des siècles en arrière, quand la terre n’avait pas le droit d’être ronde. Et on trébuche dans la boue du populisme.
— Emmanuel André (@Emmanuel_microb) January 29, 2021
“Back when the earth had no right to be round. And we were dabbling in the mud of populism,” he added.
The Brussels Times