PM wants deadlines for schools and the hospitality industry to be met “but it will depend on the figures”

The Federal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal) has told VRT News that it is still his aim to adhere to the deadlines set for the reopening of schools on 19 April and the reopening of bars and restaurants on 1 May. However, speaking on VRT News’ Sunday morning topical discussion programme ‘De zevende dag’, Mr De Croo said that that he didn’t wish to be pinned to dates and that the impact of the coronavirus measures would be evaluated and on the basis of this evaluation a decision would be taken on any relaxation of the measures. 

In a reaction to comments made by the Francophone liberal leader Georges-Louis Bouchez in which he described the government’s (of which his own party is a part) efforts to control the pandemic as “a failure”, Mr De Croo said "In a crisis like this you must ensure that there is unity within the government(s). They are in charge of policy. During a crisis you must also be able to change course is the situation is different that you might have hoped”.

"Like many European countries, we had hoped that we would be able to head towards relaxations of the measures. For months on end, we have succeeded in staving off a third wave with measures that were much less strict than in other countries”, Mr De Croo added.

When asked whether schools will fully reopen in three weeks’ time, Mr De Croo said that the measures that are been taken now are the same as at half term last November. He added that he and his colleagues want to ensure that schools can reopen on 19 April, but as with everything this is conditional on the further evolution of the pandemic. 

But will the other deadlines (27 April for the reopening shops selling non-essential goods and 1 May for the reopening of bars and restaurants) be met? 

"The basis for the reopening of our economy will be formed by limiting our contacts during the coming weeks. We currently face an aggressive variant. As regards vaccinations there will be an acceleration of the programme during the second quarter". 

Intensive care wards under great pressure

Mr De Croo realises that the pressure on the intensive wards of the country’s hospitals is growing more and more intense. For this reason, the Federal PM says “In a crisis like this I won’t be tempted to put down a date in black and white. We will first make an evaluation of the impact of the measures.” This means that while not being his wish, Mr De Croo doesn’t rule out the current measures being extended.

He also won’t be drawn on precise goals that must have been reached before the measures can be relaxed. In November 2020 the Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) said that we would have to fall below 800 new infections/day and 75 hospitalisations/day for x number of weeks before the measures could be relaxed. 

Now Mr De Croo says that the situation is more complex. "We must look at the wider picture, what is the situation on intensive care wards? What is the situation with regard to vaccine supplies? The virus is just as unpredictable as the supply of vaccines has been. I am not going to put forward any dates”, the Federal Prime Minister said.  

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