Although the first vaccines might be administered before the end of this year “we will still have to remain careful for a relatively long period yet”, Mr De Croo said. However, the use of rapid testing in 2021 could offer opportunities to allow us to do more of the things we have been unable to do during all of some of the current public health crisis.
The Prime Minister confirmed that there is light at the end of the tunnel. “Because the European system has worked well. 25 million doses have been reserved for our country. Through the European Union we have signed up for four vaccines now".
Nevertheless, it will be some time yet before most Belgians are vaccinated against coronavirus.
"If the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine arrive in the country at the end of December that won’t mean that we will be able to vaccinate the first people within a month. The great bulk of the vaccines will arrive during the second and third quarter of 2021. This means that we will need to remain careful for a relatively long period yet. We need to be aware that we will not be able to quickly return to a normal life”.
The Prime Minister was clear on who will be first in line for the vaccine. “First of all, people that work in the caring professions (doctors, nurses, carers…) because they are exposed to the virus and we need them to look after others. Then it will be the turn of the over 65s and vulnerable people”.
“Millions of rapid tests required”
In addition to vaccination, testing will form an important plank on the government’s efforts to contain the virus. “Rapid testing can give this a new dimension. We are going to need millions of rapid testing kits. Between 2 and 4 million. Once the spread of the virus is low enough the widespread use of rapid testing will let us allow people to do more things”, Mr De Croo said.
In The Netherlands a debate is currently raging as to whether the result of a rapid coronavirus test should be able to determine whether people are allowed to enter certain places or attend events.
Mr De Croo would not be drawn on this. "We will have to look into to it. What is certain is that the result of every corona test needs to be recorded properly. We need to get this data and correlate it properly”, the Federal Prime Minister said.
What about Christmas and New Year?
On Friday the Consultative Committee made up of the federal, regional and language community governments will meet again to review the current measures that are in force to curb the spread of the virus.
Mr De Croo told ‘De zevende dag’ that "The figures are moving in the right direction and that is thanks to all of us. A number of things will be on the table on Friday, including the reopening on non-essential shops and museums. But with every decision we make we will first ask ourselves whether it is responsible to do so given the figures relating to coronavirus and if this is the case then conditions will be imposed?”.
The festive season will be crucial if we are to prevent a third wave of the virus taking hold.
"For me personally there are two phases: subduing the virus with strict measures to bring the figures down and controlling the virus once the figures are low so as to ensure that they remain low. On Friday we will still be in the "subduing" phase and we will be for a while yet. We will either make or break the third wave during the Christmas period. I want to break it and not make it. Although I am all too aware that for many people this is especially difficult, a third wave would be even more difficult”, Mr De Croo concluded.