'Calculated risk': Belgium relaxes rules while Covid-19 figures stagnate

'Calculated risk': Belgium relaxes rules while Covid-19 figures stagnate
Credit: Mohamed Ridouani/Twitter screengrab

As today marks the end of the "Easter pause" and the terraces will open soon, virologist Marc Van Ranst warned that relaxing measures while the coronavirus figures have stopped falling is a calculated risk.

Allowing people to gather in groups of ten, to shop without making an appointment and contact professions to reopen from today is "a calculated risk" at a time when the coronavirus figures seem to be stabilising at a relatively high plateau, according to Van Ranst.

"There was no other way. The population asked for relaxations, and it is best to listen to that, according to the government at least," he told Het Laatste Nieuws, adding that "we are now looking forward to all the benefits of vaccinations."

Van Ranst is counting on the population's common sense to make sure that these relaxations will not cause the figures to start rising again. "A lot is possible, but you have to pay attention to certain things, such as keeping your distance, wearing a face mask and meeting each other outside," he added.

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Whether or not the pressure on the hospitals and their intensive care units will be reduced sufficiently for a safe reopening of the terraces on 8 May remains to be seen, according to Van Ranst.

"Those figures have not gone down drastically, but fortunately they are still dropping at the moment, and it is not yet 8 May," he added.

"It was promised that the terraces will open, so they will open. If that happens outside, within one's own bubble, then it will not be a problem," Van Ranst said. "However, when you are sitting on a terrace that is not open on all sides, with people from four different bubbles, without masks, then that can pose a certain risk."

Additionally, as Belgium's vaccination campaign is now "really taking off," Van Ranst is "hopeful" about its effect on the figures. "Let us hope that this will be a successful escape attempt."

Currently, almost 30% of the adult population in Belgium has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest available figures by the Sciensano national health institute.

"At some point, this will get the upper hand and we will see a downward trend, just like in other countries," Van Ranst said, adding that calculating when that will be exactly is difficult to calculate.

"Each country has a different history of vaccination and a different population," he added. "However, as soon as 30% f the population was vaccinated, there was a clear effect in both the UK and Israel."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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