Planned relaxations cannot happen if figures keep rising, warns Van Ranst
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Planned relaxations cannot happen if figures keep rising, warns Van Ranst

Credit: Belga

The relaxations of Belgium’s measures that the Consultative Committee planned to implement from 1 April cannot happen if the coronavirus figures keep rising, according to virologist Marc Van Ranst.

The current rising infection figures are “a new fact” in Belgium’s coronavirus curve that was “fairly flat for seventeen weeks,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws on Thursday.

“Relaxing the rules is out of the question if the figures keep rising, especially when we look at the follow-up figures for the next few days,” Van Ranst said.

“Some people have the impression that this epidemic is over and that is not the case. These new figures are a real reality check,” he said.

Referring to the planned relaxations from the start of April, which include the restart of outdoor events with 50 people, Van Ranst said that “when the numbers do not allow it, then you might have to rethink this politically.”

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According to him, Belgium has to be “very careful” of a third wave that is more severe than the second wave was.

“We have to keep a close eye on the number of new cases,” Van Ranst said, adding that relatively younger people are now ending up in hospital as well.

“They are treated more aggressively and more often in intensive care,” he said, adding that the British coronavirus variant – which is 50% more infectious – is at the basis of this.

Van Ranst said that he hopes the number of infections will not rise exponentially, now that more than 5,000 infections were already registered on Monday, according to provisional figures from health institute Sciensano.

He stressed that it is “absolutely necessary” that the measures currently in force are applied very strictly. “We also have to take teleworking very seriously. In some companies, this no longer happens and we see infections there as well.”

An increase in the figures was expected, according to Van Ranst, but the rise that Belgium is currently seeing is “perhaps a bit more pronounced than in the simulations.”

“It is now a political decision to try to contain this further or to sit out the storm and then see how we come out,” Van Ranst said.

In light of the increasing figures, the Consultative Committee – which was scheduled to meet on Friday 26 March – will meet this Friday, according to reports in the Walloon press, although there has been no official confirmation yet.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times