As far as Federal Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke is concerned, politicians should “stand firmly behind Marc Van Ranst,” who is currently in a safe house while the search for fugitive career soldier Jürgen Conings (46) goes on.
Van Ranst and his family have been in a safe house at a secret location for over a week after Conings threatened his life, but he has remained very active on social media, even going as far as joining an online support group for the man.
“Politics must stand firmly behind Van Ranst, for his role as a virologist and as a private person and his right to express his opinion,” Vandenbroucke said on Flemish radio on Friday.
On Thursday, however, Belgium’s Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon stated that while experts should feel safe, they should also “exercise some restraint” in their communication.
“There must be a distinction between the role as expert and that as social commentator,” he said. “Nobody questions Marc Van Ranst’s knowledge and expertise in the field of virology, but he is also someone who likes to engage in debate.”
According to Vandenbroucke, the essence is that Van Ranst was threatened because of the role he plays as a scientist and virologist “in the formulation of very unpleasant advice.”
“What matters is that Marc Van Ranst was threatened by someone, who asked for his address and stood in front of his house with rocket launchers and other weapons in his car,” he added.
“I fully support the role of Marc Van Ranst. Irrespective of the question of whether I always agree with his advice,” Vandenbroucke added. “That is a completely different matter.”
As a scientist, Van Ranst not only has a right to speak, but also a duty to speak, according to him. “In a society where someone like that is threatened, I feel bad too.”