Nicolas Maeterlinck

Omicron wave to peak in mid-January

Belgian governments have decided neither to tighten nor relax corona measures as omicron variant of coronavirus surges across Belgium.  Meanwhile scientist Steven Van Gucht predicts that the peak of the fifth wave could occur as early as mid-January.

Following the first consultative committee of the New Year PM De Croo (Flemish liberal) told newsmen that the governments had opted for a careful and stable path. Exiting corona measures remain in place.

The closing time of 11PM stays in hospitality and those that can are instructed to work from home at least four days a week. Schools reopen on Monday.

“Omicron makes people less unwell, but its faster spread could have a major impact on schools” the PM said.

The governments shied away from following the advice of the GEMS panel of experts in connection with making homeworking mandatory five days a week for those that can and restricting passenger numbers on public transport to 50% of capacity.

Belgian leaders are keen to introduce a ‘corona barometer’ that should set out the conditions that trigger corona measures.  The barometer should be finalised by the time of the next meeting of the consultative committee, probably next week.

Steven Van Gucht, head of viral diseases at health science institute Sciensano, spoke of 27,000 new cases being recorded both Monday and Tuesday. The virologist expects omicron to peak in mid-January with between 30,000 and 125,000 new cases a day.  The large margin of error is linked to the relaxation of the testing regime as less testing will result in fewer confirmed cases.

Prof Van Gucht noted the importance of the booster: “It provides protection against illness and infection” he said.

The virologist advised people to limit contacts and to work from home as much as possible, to get the booster and to be very careful during the ten days following a high-risk contact.

In addition, people, who are vulnerable, should use an FFP2 mask.

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