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“We don’t want to relax measures suddenly and see the same hospital capacity issues two weeks later”

Belgium now has a working party of experts to prepare an exit strategy for an easing of measures introduced to combat the corona crisis.  Virologist Prof Erika Vlieghe is chairing GEES.  Denmark and Austria are staring to ease restrictive measures but epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme says that for Belgium this is still too early.

Speaking on Monday night Pierre Van Damme said that a further reduction in hospitalisations was a first pre-requisite for a relaxation: “At the minute we’re maintaining all measures.  It’s important to show the population there’s a point to the measures.”

“Later we can consider how to ease up like Denmark and Austria.  That’s only possible when our hospitals can cope.  At the same time we must track down the virus that is still circulating by testing and contact tracing, e.g. by using an app.”

Knowing how many people are immune against the virus is an important factor in any exit strategy. 

Pierre Van Damme “Studies are underway. If we notice it’s above all children that are immune, then we can open schools gradually.” 

“Daily monitoring of the infection, which we will do more and more through tests, will assist us.  We don’t want to relax measures suddenly and see the same hospital capacity issues two weeks later.”

One day it will be possible to ease the measures.  A special working party of experts GEES has now been set up to prepare this scenario: to develop a strategic view for the period during which the measures to combat coronavirus will be relaxed.

PM Wilmès announced the creation of the working party last week.  Experts in epidemiology will examine how measures can be relaxed technically, while account will also be taken of social and economic factors.  Members of GEES include Leuven virologist Prof Marc Van Ranst, the governor of Belgium’s central bank Pierre Wunsch and captain of industry Johnny Thijs.  The worlds of jurisprudence, science and economics are also well-represented.

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