Closing borders would be ‘sensible measure’, expert says
Wednesday, 13 January 2021
Belgium should consider closing its borders according to biostatistician Geert Molenberghs, who is the third expert to call for a border closure in recent days.
The University of Brussels’ health faculty’s dean, Dirk Devroey, and epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme have both also asked for border closures in view of the British coronavirus strain.
Molenberghs too thinks closing the borders would be “a sensible measure from an epidemiological point of view,” he said.
“The issue is particularly sensitive politically, including in the context of international relations,” he acknowledged, “but I personally think – and I am not speaking here on behalf of GEMS (the official committee of experts) – that we should still consider it.”
Closing the borders would give Belgium time to buy vaccines, “because once the variant appears, it’s too late. We have to do everything we can to avoid this and stop it from spreading here.”
No one is in favour of closing the borders, Molenberghs continued. “But the question is whether or not we want to keep out a new variant, and therefore a new epidemic.”
Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke stressed on Tuesday before the House Health Committee that the new variants were raising concerns in Belgium. At the same time, he admitted that closing the borders “for a small country like ours is very complicated.”
The British variant was one of the factors that prompted Belgium to tighten measures for returning travellers at the end of December.
Vandenbroucke said on Sunday that he had asked Belgium’s coronavirus testing task force to discuss a system to monitor travellers carrying a variant of the virus on their return to Belgium.