Flemish Health Minister says that “Whitsun will be a turning point”

The Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke (Christian democrat) has told VRT News that he expects a turning point to come in the coronavirus pandemic in our region towards the end of May. If all goes to plan around half of all Flemings will have been vaccinated against coronavirus by around about Whitsun. This year Whit Monday is on 24 May. This will mean that slowly, but surely things can start returning to normal. Mr Beke hopes that by the latter half of the summer life should start to resemble what it was prior to March of last year. 

Mr Beke told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that the vaccination programme is running to a “tight schedule”. By 11 July, the day on which Flanders celebrates the victory against the French in the Battle of the Golden Spurs, everyone in Flanders that is over the age of 18 will have been vaccinated. However, this doesn’t mean that we will have to wait until then for any hope of a return to at least some normality.

Mr Beke sees the Whitsun weekend, in just four weeks’ time, as a turning point. By then everyone in Flanders over the age of 65 or with an underlying medical condition will have been vaccinated if they wished to be. This comes to a total of 2.6 to 2.7 million people or around half of all adults in our region.

The Flemish Health Minister says that examples from countries abroad show that this will be an important turning point. “In the UK and in Israel you saw a noticeable effect on hospitalisations once the threshold of 50% vaccinated had been crossed”.

Mr Beke believes that around then we should have started to enter what has been dubbed “the new normal".  "Although you will have to wait another two weeks before the vaccine become effective”. He adds that a lot of doors will open for the hospitality industry and for people being able to meet up again. Nevertheless, this will all be dependent on the number of hospitalisations.

The second target is 11 July. With two weeks extra to allow the vaccine to take effect, everyone that wished to be vaccinated should be as immune as they’re going to be by the 25 July. 

But does this mean that festivals and other large-scale events will be able to take place in August? “It is indeed the case that things should be possible. However, we need to remain cautious”, the Flemish Health Minister said. 

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