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Tool compares countries’ different coronavirus responses

Credit: Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker/screengrab

Belgium is currently one of the countries with the mildest coronavirus fighting measures in Europe, according to the stringency index, a tool developed by the University of Oxford.

The tool contains data for more than 180 countries, and bases its scores on 20 different indicators, such as school closures, social restrictions and travel bans. Economic support measures by the government, and the testing and vaccination policies also play a role. The lower a country’s score, the less strict the measures are.

As virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht pointed out during a press conference on Monday, Belgium has had less strict measures than neighbouring countries France, the Netherlands and Germany over the past month.

“Luxembourg (57) and Belgium (60) currently apply some of the lightest measures in Europe,” he said. “They have been relatively mild, hard on some sectors, but I think the consistency over the past few months has been a very important asset for Belgium.”

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Other neighbouring countries, such as the Netherlands (79), Germany (83) and France (64), are all applying stricter measures.

“In the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom (86), hairdressers are not yet at work,” Van Gucht stressed. “Shops and schools remain closed, with the exception of Dutch primary schools. France even introduced a curfew from 6:00 PM, in response to the rising number of infections after the Christmas period.”

Despite having stricter measures in force, other countries have worse figures than Belgium because once the curve starts to rise, more drastic measures are needed, according to him.

“And then, you have to keep those drastic measures for longer to turn the tide again,” Van Gucht said. “So, the key is not to let the curve rise dramatically, and then you do not have to go back to those stricter measures.”

Several models presented at the same press conference, however, showed that Belgium’s coronavirus curves would start rising again if the measures will be relaxed too soon.

According to biostatistician Niel Hens, keeping the curve “more or less under control,” will only be possible if the authorities wait until 1 May to relax measures.

“The rise that would follow after the relaxation then will be limited. It is there, but it remains limited,” Hens said.

The tool can be tried out here. The makers of the Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker emphasise that a higher figure does not necessarily mean that a certain country’s policy is better or more effective.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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