Belgium’s promised ‘empire of freedom’ will be in autumn, says Vandenbroucke
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Belgium’s promised ‘empire of freedom’ will be in autumn, says Vandenbroucke

Credit: Belga

While there is no reason to panic about the increase in Belgium’s coronavirus measures, everyone has to remain vigilant and leave the “empire of freedom” for after the summer, according to Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.

There is no explosion of infections like in the Netherlands, where all brakes are off, but the figures are still going up, Vandenbroucke said on Flemish radio on Friday.

“Brussels and Flemish and Walloon Brabant are already in the red zone again,” he said, but also added that there is no intention to tighten the rules again.

“We have always avoided a yo-yo policy, we have a stable policy, which counts on the patience of the population, and for which I would like to thank them enormously,” Vandenbroucke said.

More freedom will be possible after the summer, when the number of fully vaccinated people has gone up from 50% to at least 70%.

“That will be in September. September will be the tipping point in vaccination,” he said. “The empire of freedom is something for in autumn.”

“We are not there yet, so for now, let’s keep our distance and put on our face masks.”

Earlier on Friday, the Pukkelpop music festival – seen as the only remaining spark of freedom this summer – announced that it would cancel this year’s edition, as it could not meet the stricter testing conditions.

“Initially, we planned for a capacity of up to 7,000 tests per day at the Pukkelpop site but the 24/48 hour limit for the validity of, respectively, a rapid antigen test or a PCR test means that we would have to triple this capacity,” the festival organisation said in a statement.

“To put things into perspective: this is five times the maximum capacity of this country’s largest test villages,” it added. “There is no way we could guarantee the government we can organise this under safe circumstances.”