The snap tightening of measures to fight the coronavirus were necessary and are expected to yield results, top Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said.
Belgium on Tuesday announced stricter measures concerning social contacts and ordered bars and cafés to close down at 11:00 PM, in a nationwide expansion of a rule which up until now applied only in Brussels.
“The new measures were really necessary,” Van Ranst said. “Limiting social contacts to the family circle and the [measures] on the catering industry should have an impact.”
The virologist, a leading advisor to the government since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, nevertheless warned that the impact of the new measures on the rising coronavirus figures would not be palpable immediately.
“Don’t expect it within the first ten days, only later will we be able to see the effects of this,” he told De Morgen.
The new government, helmed by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, ordered each person to shrink down their so-called social bubbles to four people, down from the current five.
Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said four was the key number everyone in Belgium should keep in the back of their mind in the coming month: four people to meet with social-distancing and four (in total) in a social bubble, with whom close physical contact is allowed.
Vandenbroucke also said that by acting now to impose early closing hours on drinking establishments, the government aimed to avoid an all-out bar closure like in Paris.
The new rules are set to kick in on Friday and last until at least 9 November, De Croo said, in an announcement which comes as officials double down on work on a promised coronavirus barometer, which will use colour-codes to assess the coronavirus risks and aid decision-makers.
As new infections and hospitalisations continue climbing steadily, the decision to tighten the rules on Tuesday will buy the government some time pending the release of the barometer, Van Ranst said.
Pedro Facon, the former head of the federal public health service (FPS Health), on Tuesday appointed ‘Corona Commissioner’ in the De Croo government, has been charged with overseeing the roll-out of the coronavirus barometer.