Belgium should have stayed in “code orange” of the COVID-19 barometer a little longer, as per Erika Vlieghe, the chair of the GEMS expert group advising the government.
Vlieghe does not feel completely “at ease” about the rising figures and the dominance of the even more infectious BA.2-variant of Omicron, she said during an address on Tuesday.
She added, “Despite all our enthusiasm for believing in the wishful thinking that the COVID-19 epidemic was completely over, I think it would have been better if we had stayed in orange a little longer.”
Belgium has moved into “code yellow” in early March, despite not having reached all thresholds for the switch.
Vlieghe stated that she learns that her opinion differs from that of Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon & Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, “but we should have lifted the measures more incrementally. Week after week, the GEMS Risk Assessment Group (RAG) also warned that this was going too fast.”
She further noted that it is “very unfortunate” that the mask obligation had disappeared nearly everywhere when ‘code yellow’ went into effect. “This subject is very sensitive, but those masks did have an effect.”
The recent spike in cases shows that the virus has not disappeared, said Vlieghe. “We have been telling people for a long time: ‘things are getting better, but they are not over yet.’ But suddenly and silently, and in the same week that Russia invaded Ukraine, the realm of freedom arrived. I hope we remain cautious.”
She stressed that she “does not want to create panic, or preach hellfire and damnation,” but “it is just a sober observation: it is not over yet. Yet, all measures have been abandoned.”
Therefore, Vlieghe pleads to keep following the measures, mainly when coming into contact with elderly and vulnerable people. “We all know what I am talking about by now: wear a face mask, keep a distance, limit your contacts and do a self-test before meeting others.”