Infectious diseases expert warns against euphoria about falling coronavirus figures

The infectious diseases expert Professor Erika Vlieghe has warned Belgians against being overly optimistic in the light of the recent sharp fall in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus. Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, Professor Vlieghe stressed the importance of mass testing for the virus and of acting quickly to curb its further spread. 

She believes that what has become known as the “weekend effect” (lower number of new infections at weekends) has played an important role in the drastic fall in the number of new infections during the past two weeks. This is not least the case as the past two weeks have both had long 3-day weekends with Christmas Day and New Year’s Day both being public holidays.

"During the past weeks testing capacity has been under-used. During the holiday period the weekend effect is strengthen due to the public holidays. We must be extra critical when looking at the figures. People that really don’t feel well don’t want the extra hassle of getting tested at this time of the year. But I once again say loud and clear if you have certain symptoms  or indications that you are infected you need to get tested. This is extremely important”.

Professor Vlieghe went on to say that she is “pleasantly surprised” by people’s behaviour during the festive season. “I have the impression that many people have upheld the measures extremely well and have stuck to all the rules and recommendations. Compared with neighbouring countries our corona figures are now quite low and we as a society should be pleased and proud of this. We must above all try and keep it like this and not cheer too loudly”.  

Concerns about British variant

Professor Vlieghe says that she is deeply concerned about the British strain of coronavirus that appears to be even more infectious than other strains.

"There are a lot of things that we still don’t know about this strain of the virus. We are all very concerned. We look at the figures with trepidation and are again looking into making face covering mask obligatory for primary school children. In addition to this it is very important that travellers returning from abroad stick to the quarantine regulations and get tested”.  

Professor Vlieghe went on to say that the situation is being monitored constantly and if it were to worsen extra measures could be brought in.

"Education is not an island, but part of our society. If the figures worsen in the coming weeks, we will have to look at other measures”.

But what additional measures could be taken?

"Making young children wear masks at school, further reduce out of school activities or close shops in border areas. These are all decision we don’t want to have to take, but we are looking at the way things have been going in neighbouring countries we need to be extra cautious. Coronavirus testing is an important tool to help us keep our finger on the pulse”. 

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