Belgium is officially getting serious about the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès on Tuesday called a meeting of the National Security Council where ministers of Belgiums different governments were briefed by experts and announced new measures to contain the virus.
The government recommended postponing school trips abroad and working from home if possible, while also advising that events involving more than 1,000 people should be canceled.
Belgians are advised to avoid public transport during rush hour so buses and trains are less packed, and greeting each other by shaking hands or kissing is now officially a no-go. “Even though that clashes with our habits,” said the French-speaking Wilmès.
The new advice is necessary because Belgium has entered a phase of “secondary contaminations,” Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block told a press conference, meaning new cases are no longer found only among those who have returned from affected areas such as Italy.
The Brussels region announced immediately it would ban all indoor events with over 1,000 people.
Pressure has mounted on Belgiums government in recent days, as the number of recorded cases rose and Italy and other European countries stepped up measures to contain the virus.
De Block, herself a doctor, is known for a no-nonsense style that was initially praised for preventing panic. But concern has been growing amid the governments decision not to recommend quarantine for people returning from (mostly ski) holidays in Italy.
Belgium is also experiencing a shortage of the chemical products needed to test for coronavirus, meaning people are only being tested to confirm whether they are carrying the virus after they exhibit symptoms.
The country has 267 known cases. Experts say the real number is likely much higher, with Marc Van Ranst, a Belgian virologist, calling it “the tip of the iceberg.”
Steven Van Gucht, who chairs the governments scientific committee for coronavirus, stressed Tuesday that the new measures were in line with science and were the countrys best attempt to prevent a situation similar to that ongoing in Italy.
“Its all about timing,” said Van Gucht. “Its easy to put out some flames that are smoldering here and there. If your house is on fire, then chances are even water cant stop it from burning down.”
“We want to avoid that too many people get sick in a short period and end up in our hospitals,” said De BloRead More – Source