‘Putting the brakes on contacts’: new rules will stabilise figures, says Van Gucht
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‘Putting the brakes on contacts’: new rules will stabilise figures, says Van Gucht

Credit: Belga

The latest measures announced by the Consultative Committee will be enough to stabilise Belgium’s coronavirus curves again if people follow them strictly, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht.

Speaking to The Brussels Times, Van Gucht explained that even though the so-called “Easter pause” that was announced – including the closure of non-medical contact professions and schools – is not a hard lockdown, “a number of important measures” were still taken.

“If they are followed well, they will certainly have an effect,” he added, emphasising that “a big lever” is in the hands of the people. “As a government, you can decide on a certain number of things, but the people also have to do them.”

“The combination [of the new restrictions] with the Easter holidays is an opportunity, but the most important is that people put the brakes on their private contacts,” Van Gucht said.

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Most infections currently still take place in the private sphere, according to him. In practice, however, checking whether or not people reduce their contacts is not easy, so the population’s commitment is essential.

The rules allowing only one cuddle contact and limiting the number of people you can meet are “very, very important” to stabilise the curve. “We are going to have to keep doing that for a while,” Van Gucht added.

“We will see an impact if we follow these measure, and we will get the figures down again. And then, it will be mainly the vaccine that will have to do the rest,” he said, pointing out that once people over 60 years old have been vaccinated, there will be a noticeable drop in the hospital figures.

“I hope we can spend the Easter holidays within our bubble, within our household – a bit like we did during the Christmas holidays,” Van Gucht said, adding that that worked very well then.

“It is true that we never really managed to get the figures very low,” he added, referring to the set thresholds of 800 infections and 75 hospital admissions. “But now we can start counting on the vaccines – which we did not have during the Christmas break – to help with that.”

The decision to bring the “outdoor bubble” back from ten people to four is also a good decision, according to Van Gucht, as contacts with friends and family is always “risky.”

Additionally, Belgium can hopefully count on some better weather during the break, which will allow everyone to organise possible Easter activities outdoors. “That will definitely help us.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times