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XXL deconfinement that stirs up critics

All nursery and primary schools will reopen in Belgium. These unexpected measures worry citizens.

Max HELLEFF

Max HELLEFF

All nursery and primary schools will reopen in Belgium. These unexpected measures worry citizens.

From our correspondent, Max Hellef (Brussels) – The pace of school deconfinement has accelerated significantly this week in Belgium, leading to many criticisms. Concretely, while it had been programmed that only part of the primary would return to class, it is every 6-12 years who will be able to return to school on June 8. Precautions have also changed: students must not wear a mask, regardless of their age; for teachers, this protection is only recommended where social distancing cannot be ensured. As for kindergarten classes, they can resume from June 2. Here, the teacher should not wear the mask and the safety distances are forgotten. Note: return to class is offered, but is not mandatory.

The fact remains that many school principals no longer know which saint to devote themselves to. For weeks, inspections in support, they put in place a veritable arsenal of sanitary measures to allow the return of a small part of the primary classes. “And today, plague one of them, all children can return as if the pandemic never existed.”

The Belgian authorities point to the faster than expected decline in the epidemic to justify this accelerated deconfinement. The number of infected cases, hospitalizations and intensive care bed occupations has declined significantly in recent weeks. The epidemic rebound expected after Mother’s Day and the possibility given to families to reunite did not happen. Regarding the return to kindergartens, pediatricians have argued that prolonged quarantine could strongly affect toddlers psychologically while it is now clear that the virus affects them only very rarely.

However, this new phase of deconfinement comes at a time when the very basis of the scientific expertise on which the management of the health crisis by the Belgian authorities is being called into question.

The time has come to rethink the strategy for developing the Belgian medical plan

The Royal Academy of Medicine and the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts are worried about the monopoly of the Scientific Institute of Public Health, Sciensano, in the management of the crisis. They denounce “arbitrary and opaque decisions”. The time has come to “rethink the strategy for developing the Belgian medical plan”, say the two academies. The coronavirus caused panic in the kingdom, which made decisions in an emergency and haste, they continue. No crisis plan was ready although the virus was already in China in December.

The two academies say they are still worried about the future, especially if Belgium were to face a second wave of contamination or another pandemic. They denounce the “inconsistencies” which surrounded the serological tests, the “restriction on the use of diagnostic tests”, a tracing of potential patients not very respectful of privacy, or the “negation of the interest of masks for the population in order to conceal a shortage and a lack of foresight ”.

Sciensano of course defended himself against these accusations. But with the deconfinement and the retreat of the pandemic, it is becoming more and more obvious that Belgium will not be able to do without a vast examination of conscience as to the way in which it managed the health crisis. Again on Thursday, Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin was asked to explain to the Chamber the delay in part of the delivery of the masks ordered from the Luxembourg company Avrox.


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