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Belgium needs a short ‘real’ lockdown, warns expert

Credit: Jules Johnston/The Brussels Times

Belgium needs a short but real lockdown to bring the coronavirus figures back down, according to professor and dean of the health faculty at VUB Dirk Devroey.

The Consultative Committee’s decisions to postpone a number of relaxations initially planned for April and task the education ministers to draw up a plan for schools do not go far enough to stop the sharp rise in figures, he said.

“I really advocate a new lockdown, a real one, where no one goes to work, including workers or construction workers, and where schools close,” Devroey said on VRT programme ‘De Zevende Dag’ on Sunday.

According to him, such a lockdown could be limited to two to four weeks, after which some restrictions could be relaxed a bit, if the figures have fallen sufficiently.

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“Previously, we relaxed [the measures] far too quickly, at a high level of an average of 2,000 to 3,000 new infections per day,” Devroey said. “That became a smouldering fire that is now rekindling. Like the defence of the Red Devils in the 2000s: the measures were too weak and they always come too late.”

Infectious disease expert and chair of the GEMS expert group advising the government Erika Vlieghe, however, is not sure if a complete lockdown is necessary.

“Lockdown is a house with many rooms,” she said. “What we proposed in our ‘plan B’ was actually: let us do everything we can to keep the schools open to the maximum, and that means making maximum efforts in sectors and situations around them.”

Intensivist at the UZ Leuven Geert Meyfroidt stressed that going into a new lockdown is up to the politicians to decide. “A total lockdown works, and letting go of all the rules is not an option, but anything in between those two extremes is a political choice.”

Making the decision to implement extra rules, quickly, however, is more important than what exactly those rules are, according to him. “If you further tighten the rules, it is better to do it tomorrow.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times