Infectious diseases expert says that vaccinations are currently still having no effect on the coronavirus figures

The infectious diseases expert Dr Erika Vlieghe has told VRT News that at this stage the vaccination programme is still not having any impact on the figures relating to the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium. Speaking on VRT Radio 1‘s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ Dr Vlieghe said that the coronavirus figures still give cause for concern. 

“We see that the number of new infections is slowly creeping up. In some areas of the country the increase is even quite rapid, for example in Walloon Brabant (+41%), in Luxembourg Province (+30%) and in Namur Province (+24%). This isn’t nothing. The number of hospitalisations is rippling and shows no drastic fall. And we know that if the number of infections rises, the number of hospital admissions will rise a little while after”. 

Dr Vlieghe added that it is still much too early to see any impact of the vaccination programme on the coronavirus figures. “Every person that is vaccinated is a victory, but we are still not talking about gigantic figures. As things stand this would not prevent a third wave”. 

She believes that we need to look closely at the areas where the number of infections is rising. “Which sections of the population are concerned? Are there outbreaks in schools or within companies? Are those infected students or other age demographics? This is about people that are no longer following the measures closely. It is important to strengthen the dam and ensure that measures are closely adhered to again. Because we know that they work”. 

Dr Vlieghe is Chair of the group that advises the government on issues released to the coronavirus pandemic GEMS. On Friday afternoon the Consultative Committee made up of representatives of the federal, regional and language community governments will meet to decide if any changes are to be made to the measures designed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Something on the table on Friday afternoon will be the re-opening of hairdressers, barbers' shops and other non-medical contact professions such as nail bars from Saturday 13 February. 

Dr Vlieghe says that it is not advisable to allow these to re-open at this stage. “By allowing contact professions to re-open, you allow a lot more close contacts between people.  We also fear that that it will trigger a flood of questions from people that say, ‘if that is allowed why isn’t this?’ The (health care) system is currently too fragile. The epidemic can still get out of hand”. 

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