BELGA

Local lockdowns "under serious consideration"

Cathy Berx, Governor of Antwerp Provinces, one of the Belgian provinces stricken hardest by new coronavirus cases, is sounding the alarm. She has asked the Belgian health and science institute Sciensano for information about the precise localities where the virus is gaining ground, but has not received any answer.

The governor confirms local lockdowns are under serious consideration as a means of stemming the spread of coronavirus.  Certain relaxations could be tightened up again in places where there are more infections, but local authorities are not receiving detailed figures.

“Since the beginning of the crisis we have been requesting the most precise information possible with regard to neighbourhoods and even streets.  We’ve repeatedly put the question to Sciensano but have not received any answer.  The figures we’ve got aren’t detailed enough for us to be able to act.”

Infection expert and chair of the experts advising the governments on the relaxations Prof Vlieghe shares the governor’s concerns: “We need to adapt to the situation in the locality where a problem has occurred.  We’re talking about geography, a group of people e.g. youngsters, a hospital, a business.  We need to adapt our actions to these places and groups”.

In theory whole neighbourhoods could be locked down, but that wouldn’t be an easy process.

“The cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease.  You first need to be very sure, to possess a lot of information to be able to decide what the right measure is to keep a situation in check.  You need to give this much careful thought.”

Cities and municipalities are aware of local spikes, but who the patients are, where they live, what their profile is, is unknown.  The health institute Sciensano and the Flemish care agency have the figures.

“Yes” says Prof Vlieghe “That’s right.  To get hold of the figures you need to contact them.  I don’t have the figures and that is particularly frustrating.”  

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