Steven Van Gucht, head of the viral diseases department at Sciensano National Health Institute, spoke on Belgium’s response to a future pandemic in a hearing before the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday.
“If the coronavirus had appeared in Belgium instead of Wuhan, I am not sure that we would have noticed it so quickly or that we could have raised the alarm immediately,” he said.
Flemish MPs are currently looking into what the necessary preparations could be made available in the case of another pandemic and how preventative measures could be put in place.
The current management of the Covid pandemic is essentially in the hands of the Federal Government. This doesn’t please MP of the Flanders Government who have submitted a memo on this subject to the regional assembly, Belga News Agency reports.
In particular, they stressed that Flanders should no longer be completely dependent on the federal crisis center, but that “regional control” must be available in future. This would give more power to individual regions such as Flanders in the context of a pandemic.
Van Gucht advocated in front of the MPs for investing in prevention and preparation for an unknown pandemic. He especially recommended setting up syndromic surveillance. This consists of continuous monitoring of certain symptoms or diseases in order to detect any abnormal disease.
However, rather than investing in a regional system, Van Gucht endorsed a country-wide approach that includes an increase in funding for existing institutions.
“In the 16 years that I’ve worked at Sciensanso, I’ve never known anything but savings cuts,” he said.