Christophe Ketels / COMPAGNIE GAGARINE

Crisis talks on grave situation in Antwerp

Crisis talks are underway in Antwerp.  The number of new corona cases in Antwerp Province is rising much faster than elsewhere in Belgium and this giving grave cause for concern. Meanwhile PM Wilmès (Francophone liberal) has brought forward Friday’s meeting of the security council.   

Governor Cathy Berx is chairing the meeting with Flemish and federal health inspectors, the police and the fire service.

Issues on the table include preparations for a soft lockdown.  Cathy Berx: “It’s a complex exercise.  Numerous elements need to be weighed against each other.  We’re looking at how it can be done with maximum effect by limiting the spread of the virus without hurting the economy”.

The social bubble, the 15 people a week you are allowed to have close contacts with, is also under discussion.  Cathy Berx: “We’re looking at how you can reduce the size of the bubble in a way that people can report their contacts to contact tracers if they test positive.  This assumes fewer than 15 contacts.”

The situation in Antwerp is so grave that Belgian health minister Maggie De Block (Flemish liberal) has bowed to pressure from the experts and is now calling for a meeting of the security council to be brought forward from next Friday.  The council, grouping the federal and devolved governments, will consider the state of the epidemic and decide on action if Belgium is experiencing more than simply local outbreaks.

In the course of Saturday PM Wilmès took to social media to announce the security council would now meet on Monday.  The PM stressed the importance of strong local measures, but added the government would be looking at additional national measures too.

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