“Close the Belgian health science institute”

The Flemish care sector has voiced major concerns with regard to the raft of relaxations that Belgian governments put on the tracks yesterday.

Dirk Devroey, the dean of the Medicine and Pharmacy Faculty at the Flemish Free University of Brussels, VUB, says the health science institute Sciensano might as well be shut down “as infection figures are no longer needed”.

Margot Cloet of hospital and care home network Zorgnet-Icuro feels insufficient account has been taken of the situation in hospitals.  “When I see the relaxations planned for 26 April: larger bubbles, shopping without appointment and resumption of activities of non-medical contact professionals (e.g. hairdressers), I am very worried.”

Ms Cloet points to the situation in hospitals: 96% of beds taken in critical care with 950 Covid patients and 1,000 other patients.

“There are still 300 deaths a week, over 1,000 a month.”

“I understand calls to give people the prospect of a better future, but the relaxations should have been linked to infection and hospitalisation figures.”

Ms Cloet is worried about a possible increase in Covid patients and the knock-on effect on regular care. 

Chair of the panel of experts advising the governments and an expert in infectious diseases, Erika Vlieghe, voices concern about relaxations in indoor settings and especially the opportunity to entertain two guests in the home starting 8 May: “The number of contacts is being extended and we don’t know how people will interpret this.”

Prof Vlieghe is also worried about the end of the travel ban and suggests extremely strict checks will be needed to keep matters under control.

Belgian health minister Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) concedes Belgium’s politicians have taken a risk, but stresses the relaxations are not unconditional.  The vaccination drive must continue and the situation in hospitals must improve: “Additional relaxations indoors in June are only possible if fewer than than 500 Covid patients are in critical care and this figure is falling sustainably” he says.

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