'Bare minimum measures, or complete lockdown,' says health minister

'Bare minimum measures, or complete lockdown,' says health minister
The number of infringements of the Covid-19 measures dropped significantly. Credit: Belga

The new coronavirus measures, which were announced by the government on Wednesday evening and will take effect on Saturday, are the bare minimum needed to avoid a complete lockdown, health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said.

Belgium's Consultative Committee announced that to avoid a lockdown due to the worsening Covid-19 situation, broad measures regarding further tightening of the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST), making telework mandatory and a broader face mask obligation are necessary.

"These measures are the bare minimum. If we don't implement and follow them, we will soon be in a complete lockdown," Vandenbroucke told VTM NEWS following the press conference of the Consultative Committee.

He stressed that these measures were absolutely necessary, citing recent figures published by the Sciensano Health Institute, which recorded an "incomplete, but already absolute record figure for this year," as last Monday (15 November), 19,306 infections were identified, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

Vandenbroucke said the newly introduced measures, which will be in force until 28 January 2022, will be "strictly monitored."

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During the press conference, it was announced that the air quality will be better monitored in schools and workplaces, by installing CO2 meters.

"The public health inspectorate will act if there is no CO2 meter in the hospitality industry and if there is no action plan to monitor the air quality," Vandenbroucke said.

It was also announced that face mask obligation will be extended to all places where a CST is currently required, including in nightclubs, discos and dance halls. Those that do not want to apply compulsory face masks must require a self-test at the entrance, on top of a valid CST.

According to Vandenbroucke, the police should also act if the CST is not used correctly, and that this has been passed on to the home affairs ministers Annelies Verlinden as well as all mayors. "If we don't seriously monitor the measures, we're not going to get there."

Vandenbroucke explained that it is now a case of showing solidarity and that pointing the finger at certain sectors or places is pointless.

"If measures have to be taken in schools, it is not the fault of the schools. If measures need to be taken in clubs, it is not the clubs' fault. We must take strong action everywhere. The virus is tough, but together we are tougher," he said.

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