Professor Molenberghs says that we need to remain cautious for another 4 to 6 weeks

The coronavirus figures are moving in the right direction. The number of people testing positive for the virus is down considerably and the number of people with COVID-19 in the country’s hospitals is falling. With this have come calls for a relaxation the restrictions designed curb the spread of the virus. However, virologists such as Professor Erika Vlieghe and Professor Steven Van Gucht say that it is still too soon. But what is the view of the Leuven (KUL) and Hasselt University statistician Geert Molenberghs. To relax or not to relax? That is the question. 

Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ Professor Molenberghs said “We need to realise the British variant of the virus is still very much in circulation”.  

"An estimated 50% of the confirmed infections are with the British variant. It will be an intense next few week. This is a normal course of events. We will go from 50% to 80%. During the coming 4 to 6 weeks, we will need to be careful. The variant will pile on the pressure”.

But what are the prospects of, for example, bars and restaurants being allowed to reopen at Easter?

"This is something that we should think about. There is the advantage of the effect of the change of season (from winter to spring) and the vaccinations. We expect that against this background we can keep the figures under control and see them fall. In this case a gradual relaxation can be considered. But we are not going to set a date until it is much closer. This is something for the government to decide. We look at the curves not at the calendar.

The group of experts that advises the government on measures to curb the spread of coronavirus GEMS is considering a much less strict regime in care homes where the residents and staff have already received both doses of the vaccine.

Care homes are the responsibility of the language community governments and it will be up to them to decide. However, Professor Molenberghs says that this is a “sensitive issue”.

He concluded the interview with the hopeful message that “We presume that around about Easter or in the period just after that a lot of things will start to look better”. 

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