‘Pity to be infected when vaccine is waiting’: Van Gucht fears early relaxations
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‘Pity to be infected when vaccine is waiting’: Van Gucht fears early relaxations

Credit: Belga

Experts are worried that Belgium’s authorities will be easing the coronavirus restrictions too soon, after seeing Flanders’ “freedom plan,” according to virologist and GEMS member Steven Van Gucht.

As so many people have tried hard not to get infected or infect others by following the rules over the past year, it would be a shame to release the measures too early, Van Gucht said on Flemish radio on Monday.

“Everyone feels that we are gradually coming out of the crisis, but it does make us a bit worried,” he said. “We still have to point out the risks.”

Over the weekend, both Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon expressed that they are in favour of organising large festivals in the second part of the summer again, but Van Gucht does not see that as an option.

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“We plead to keep the number of participants limited, and with strict conditions,” he said. “You can otherwise get a big spread of new variants in a short time.”

Van Gucht stressed that people are only sufficiently protected after they have been fully vaccinated, adding that “with the second shot, the protection gets a lot better.”

“The second vaccination for the average twenty-something will probably only come in August,” he said. “So, August seems to us to be too early for big festivals.”

According to Van Gucht, it would be “a pity” to still get infected in the last weeks or months if the measures are eased too much “when your vaccine is waiting for you.”

Last weekend, his colleague Erika Vlieghe, infectious disease expert and chair of the GEMS advisory council, also spoke out against the plan, saying that it was “completely at odds with what we (GEMS experts) had proposed.

“I note that our advice has been pushed aside,” she told the Belga news agency, adding that the government is being “impudent” and that politicians are aware of the fact that the experts do not support the plans.

“Despite the high vaccination rate we will hopefully have achieved by then, there will still be too many uncertain factors,” Vlieghe said.