Kris Van Exel / Photo News

Virus expert: "Clear that that something needs to be done, especially in the cities”

Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ the Leuven University (KUL) virologist Marc Van Ranst said that although the novel coronavirus is everywhere it is the cities that are fuelling the epidemic. Professor Van Ranst pointed to the situation in Brussels and Antwerp, but also said that other urban centres such as Ghent, Liège and Seraing also have disproportionally more coronavirus infections than smaller towns and rural areas.  

He said that “They would be coloured in dark red on the European Centre for Disease control’s map”.

On Monday the Mayors of the 19 Brussels municipalities will meet to discuss the situation in the capital. Professor Van Ranst called on them to show political courage and take the difficult decisions that are required even though public opinion is calling for measures to be relaxed.

This coming Wednesday the National Security Council will meet. It seems certain that changes will be made to the social contact bubble that currently allows us to have close contact (i.e. normal relations without social distancing) with a set group of 5 people with whom we don’t share a home.

However, "You will end up with one or another initiative that will result in the same thing. You could go for a 10-person social bubble or a bubble that varies in size, but it will always be difficult to limit our social contacts”.

The virologist calls for a system like that in Ireland, Australia and several other countries where different measures are applied according to the evolution of the epidemic.

“This makes things clears in as far as we then know which level, we’re in and when things are going better, we end up in a lower level and are in a higher level when the epidemic has gained ground. This allows people to know what the future might bring”.  

Professor Van Ranst went on to warn that the number of infections among older people is rising. “This is slow, but it is rising. It was also to be expected. Children mix with their parents and grandparents. You can’t hope that an epidemic will be limited to one age category”. 

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