From "strange decision" to "colleagues abroad ask me what's going on": experts on latest corona measures

Most experts are not entirely happy with the government's latest decision to relax the present corona measures from 1 October, especially taking into consideration that the corona statistics for Belgium are taking a turn for the worse. 

Virologist Marc Van Ranst (KU Leuven) is disappointed with the decisions announced after yesterday national security council. "Taking into account the figures, this is not the moment to relax things. People who asked for relaxations, are bearing a big responsibility now. (...) What has now been announced, will not slow the epidemic down."

Van Ranst calls it "a missed chance" that a system with a Covid barometer per province with colour codes to trigger people's alertness - which was on the table - is not being introduced, at least not yet. "You just have to dare to do it." 

Colleagues from abroad ask me what's going on in Belgium

Vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme (UAntwerpen)  is also talking of a missed chance where the colour barometer is concerned.

'"I hear that it may be introduced in two weeks' time, but it should have been tomorrow or the day after tomorrow", he said yesterday. 

This morning, he added that "I got various messages from colleagues abroad asking me to explain the latest relaxations in Belgium. It's hard for me to do that when I don't agree with what has been decided." 

Geert Meyfroidt, an intensive care specialist, admits that the press conference by PM Sophie Wilmès did not bring what he had hoped for and is talking of a strange decision. "We asked for more clarity and maybe tougher restrictions in some places, but instead we have less clarity and certainly not more restrictions.  They have tried to adapt the rules to our behaviour, but we shouldn't forget that figures have gone up. When I saw the press conference, I told my colleagues in hospital that we know what to in the coming weeks." 

Underestimation is a virus's best friend

Microbiologist and professor Herman Goossens (UAntwerpen) understands what the government had in mind (getting more people to follow the rules) but is worried anyway. "The politicians hope that members of the public will take up more responsibility. Health Minister Maggie De Block refers to Sweden and I understand that, but Sweden has a different culture in this respect, people have more self-discipline there."

At present, coronavirus is mostly spreading among 18 to 20-year-olds. They mostly don't suffer too much from the virus, but Herman Goossens is afraid that the barriers between generations will disappear now, and  that the more vulnerable (older) people will get infected. Underestimation is a virus's best friend." 

"The old system needed an update"

Biostatistician Geert Molenberghs (KU Leuven and Unversiteit Hasselt) was positive about the changes that have been announced. "The concept of the bubbles had to be updated. You shouldn't consider the latest announcement as a relaxation, but as an adaptation. This will create more flexibility." But he too had hoped for the introduction of colour codes per province to make restructions more stringent when needed. 

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