Strict measures will remain ‘until there is a vaccine’, Belgian PM says

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo waits for Belgium's King and Queen to arrive for a visit at the Algemeen Stedelijk Ziekenhuis hospital during a surge of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Aalst, Belgium, 04 November 2020. [EPA-EFE/YVES HERMAN]

Measures decided to contain the second wave of COVID-19 infections will remain in place for the long term, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said during a hospital visit on Wednesday (3 November), adding they will have to be continued for “months to come”.

“Until there is a vaccine, we will have to deal with it a lot more strictly than during the summer,” said the prime minister in a conversation with King Philippe and the care staff of a hospital in Aalst, according to Belga News Agency.

“Even if we are going to see the effects, we have to make it very clear that it is going to be a long-term effort,” De Croo warned.

Although at some point the infection figures will fall, “the biggest task is that people must adhere to the measures for a long period of time to ensure that the situation in the hospitals normalises – that will take months,” the Belgian prime minister said.

De Croo said he had learned from what happened when the measures were relaxed after the first wave in spring, adding that strict measures will have to remain in force “for months to come”.

The rate of increase in new COVID-19 infections in Belgium has slowed but it is too early to say that the country’s second wave has peaked, the government said on Monday as new restrictions went into effect to avert a breakdown of the health system, imposing a de-facto lockdown on the population.

On Wednesday, for the first time in two months, the infection figures have fallen slightly, according to numbers provided by Belgium’s health institute Sciensano.

Between 25-31 October, an average of 14,235 new cases were detected per day, which is a decrease of 4% compared to the week before.

However, health experts also pointed to the fact that the lower number stems from people without disease symptoms having been tested less frequently.

The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic is 452,541.

Meanwhile, the country is making progress in its planning for a vaccination campaign. The Belgian government’s inter-federal COVID-19 spokesperson, Steven Van Gucht, said there is “hope that the first results of the trials will be announced sometime in November-December.”

Belgium can expect to launch the first major vaccination campaigns “sometime in spring next year,” probably between March and June, Gucht said, adding that Brussels is in negotiations with the European Commission over supplies of vaccines when they become available.

Belgium enters second lockdown

Belgium went into second lockdown as of Monday (2 November) to tackle the serious spike of COVID-19 infections across the country.

The measures will stay in effect until 13 December, with a review scheduled for the 1 December.

The rule of four …

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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