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Health Minister dampens hopes of early relaxation of coronavirus measures

On Friday the Consultative Committee made up of representatives of Belgium’s federal, regional and language community governments will meet to discuss the measures in force to help curb the spread of COVID-19. They will decide which, if any, measures can be relaxed and if any new measures need to be introduced to help us keep on top of the virus. In an interview with the commercial television channel VTM, the Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist, photo above) said that it is still too early to consider relaxing the measures currently in force. Mr Vandenbroucke said that this could only be done responsibly in around another three weeks. The Federal Health Minister believes that to relax the measures now would leave us with “holes in our dam” against the virus.

 

Speaking about the new variants of the virus Mr Vandenbroucke said that that “If we stick to the measures there is no reason for us to be afraid of the variants. The variants won’t breach the dam. The problem will be if holes are made in the dam. We need to be doubly wary of this”

Mr Vandenbroucke added that a decision on a relaxation of the measures will only be taken once the British variant has become dominant.

“It is true that the hospitality industry is currently under great pressure, financially too, but at this stage we a decision to relax the measures would not be sensible”.

We see that the British variant is more and more prevalent. If you relax the measures, you will create holes in your defences”.

The number of people testing positive has stopped falling during the past few days and it is expected to rise in the days to come. The British variant is now estimated to account for half of all coronavirus infections.  

Mr Vandenbroucke said that it will be another three weeks before we can say with any accuracy how infectious the British variant really is as by then it will be dominant. With this in mind, the Health Minister says that it will be another three weeks before any relaxation of the measures currently in force can be considered.  “Friday will be an important meeting, but we won’t be able to make too many decisions”.

Mr Vandenbroucke went onto say that the measures in force in Belgium are the least strict in Europe. For example, schools and non-essential shops are open here.

When asked if the ban on non-essential travel will be lifted on 1 April, the Health Minister said “It will be difficult to maintain as it contravenes the principle of free movement of people within Europe”. Mr Vandenbroucke hopes to reach an agreement with the regions (that are responsible for testing) on strict measures concerning the obligation to take a coronavirus test when a person returns to the country from abroad. 

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