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Belgians under pressure from confinement

The Belgians are finding it harder and worse for the health measures imposed by the De Croo government. But flexibility is not on the authorities’ agenda even though covid infections tend to slow down.

Max HELLEFF

Max HELLEFF

The Belgians are finding it harder and worse for the health measures imposed by the De Croo government. But flexibility is not on the authorities’ agenda even though covid infections tend to slow down.

From our correspondent Max HELLEFF (Brussels) – Deconfinement and travel: these are the two words most cited today by the Belgian media. Each day brings its share of information and, more often still, of speculations as to when the De Croo government will agree to release the health pressure exerted on the country and its inhabitants.

During the past week, the opinions of several scientists have crossed in a certain nervousness. In La Libre Belgique, epidemiologist Yves Coppieters (ULB) believes that relaxations could be considered as early as March. “It will be necessary to reopen within a sector the sub-categories where the protocols can be correctly applied”, he says. But on the official side, it’s ” no pasaran ”.

In Het Laatste Nieuws this time, the interfederal spokesman Steven Van Gucht considers on the contrary that a relaxation of the rules before Easter would constitute a real danger. “I would not be surprised if by next week, the numbers start to rise again and then fall again the following week.” And as the weekend is shaping up to be a good one for the season, he warns: “Whenever you give the virus a margin, things happen that you want to avoid: that’s the problem. The same goes for travel ”.

Precisely, travel is also the subject of all conjecture. News sites are rife with subjects such as the “unfair” deprivation of winter sports and the impatience of Belgians to find their second residence abroad. On Thursday, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders twisted the arm of the De Croo government by calling on it to replace the travel ban for non-essential reasons in March with more targeted measures.

And yet, the figures are good, argue the authorities. The daily number of infections, hospital admissions and deaths is declining. But the vaccination has experienced several successive hiccups, barring the possibility of rapid deconfinement. The Heysel vaccination center (Brussels), the largest in the country, could not function when it opened due to a computer bug which prevented the sending of invitations to the population. Belgium is struggling here to make up for the accumulated delay compared to other countries.

Another pitfall: even in clear improvement quantitatively, contamination and hospital admissions of covid patients remain beyond the threshold set by the authorities to deconfin. Hence the rise of yet another controversy that sees supporters and opponents of the standards set by the government clash.

One thing is certain: the fed up is growing. The “coping” of those who are resistant to covid measures is becoming increasingly difficult. 14-year-olds ended up in jail for organizing a lockdown party. The government’s demand for general practitioners to forward the records of their at-risk patients under 65 to vaccination centers angering those who brandish the protection of privacy. Thursday, two students were injured during a health check carried out by the police in Louvain-la-Neuve.

“Here are as many battering in the wall of containment which therefore risks collapse before the dikes of the vaccine are erected”, writes The evening. “It’s even worse, the public has the impression at this point, with a Belgian vaccination rate of 3.4% of the population after a month, that even the foundations of these promised dikes are shaky.”


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