The advisory committee is taking tougher action early on in the fight against the coronavirus. But is this enough? Bart Eckhout explains it. “From a viral point of view, you can therefore doubt whether it will be enough this time.”
What do you decide?
“The advisory committee’s decisions are largely in line with the advice given last night by Anti-Coronavirus Commissioner Pedro Facon. The brakes are being put mainly in the entertainment and events sector. Major events that involve a lot of physical exercise and social contacts – clubs, parties and concerts – are again banned. There will also be a closing time in the restaurant industry: 23 hours. The number of places you can occupy with a group at one table is limited to six, except for large families. Private parties are also canceled, except for weddings. There will also be no restrictions on funerals.”
Why is this suddenly necessary? The previous regulations are only one week old.
“The numbers don’t look really good. The occupancy rate of Covid patients in intensive care is approaching 700 beds. According to current forecasts, it could rise to 1,200 or more in the coming weeks. This means that two-thirds of all IC beds will be occupied by patients with one disease. This number High as in the first wave, not much lower as in the second. This means that we will once again test the already battered healthcare sector to its limits. Margins there are lower than they were a year ago, due to the loss of staff.”
is it enough?
“No one dares to say it. Compared to the measures agreed only last week, the restrictions on freedom of course go further. However, it is notable that governments and experts have struggled to find measures that reduce but do not prevent social interaction between people You can still exercise, and go to the theater or movie too, albeit with a mouth mask.Large outdoor events, such as Christmas markets, are not prohibited by definition, although some cities and municipalities have already decided otherwise on their own.Bubbles Limited contact, curfews and other severe restrictions are out of the question at the moment.She says explicitly that the government is counting on people’s wisdom not to go crazy at home.
“From a viral point of view, you can therefore doubt whether that will be enough this time. Other countries with similar worrying curves, such as Austria or the Netherlands, continue. From a social point of view, it seems reasonable not to ban social contacts brutally. The mental aspect of these weighs The crisis is now more than a year and a half.
Few would have expected that we would sit here again. Politicians, experts and also the media: Everyone underestimated the virus. Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo (Open Vld) did not say “the real mistake”. “The virus has outnumbered us, including the experts,” he said. You could say that the overall winter approach to the coronavirus has failed. Simply. Many people are frustrated and even angry about this. It is logical that this sentiment is taken into account. But to be fair: Estimation is still not without risks. The virus does not take these feelings into account. If the wave crest does not appear soon, it cannot be ruled out that further tightening should take place: December 15th is the new assessment moment. I would like to say: We’ll see. ”
Is there good news too?
Death rates are on the rise again, but the difference with previous high waves will still be significant for now. We owe this to vaccines and improved medication and care.
“There is also little reason for hope. In addition to unvaccinated people, especially the elderly, the most vulnerable and at-risk patients end up in hospital with cases of COVID-19. Booster vaccines are now mainly used in these target groups. That campaign started too late. It was too late, just as in most other European countries. But in the hospitalization of the older and already strengthened age groups, you can already see an encouraging first gesture. At the same time, you see that the emergency is again convincing some Other skeptics of a vaccine. This is still very important. We are still a long way from that, but if this trend continues, hopefully the pressure on doctors and hospitals will ease.”
Was there a lot of political resistance?
“Not true. The Flemish government, which would normally like more tightening within the advisory committee, has slipped off the brakes this time around. The realization that ‘politics’ is not working well here has permeated en masse. Just 48 hours before, the two government leaders asked Alexandre de Croo (Open Vld) and Jean Gambon (N-VA) Keep Calm and Wait After the last advisory panel, a week and a half ago, there was unanimous doubt in the analyzes as to whether this would suffice. This doubt proved justified.
“Governments believed or hoped that there was still room for compromise, but unfortunately this was a mistake. It is still difficult for politicians to estimate the dramatically increased risks. There is always, even now, the idea that it is possible with less ounces. This is not a lazy criticism: should Politicians have to balance the risks to patients and health care staff against the diverse interests of people who may be affected by security measures.”
Where are the risks?
“There is still a bit of talk about education, while it is clear that schools are places where the virus spreads easily, initially without much concern among young people, but then inevitably also among older people. Education ministers are expected to find Additional measures this weekend, limiting extracurricular and joint activities, and generalizing the wearing of mouth masks and ventilation.
“It is understandable that closing a new public school is undesirable. Given the risk of learning deprivation and increasing inequality, but – let’s be honest – also because keeping children at home puts a huge strain on families and the economy. This does not change the fact that the situation in education is precarious. Schools are currently experiencing the Corona storm. They are closed, classrooms must be isolated, teachers are sick, school administrators have to cope. It gives the impression of stepping back into the chaos. Schools must decide on their own initiative whether to close lessons or digitize them. Some decide to switch to education Online as a precaution, as a way of calming, in order to keep as many students and teachers as possible in good health at the start of the probationary period. Policy attention to this situation comes too late.”
How about this South African “alternative now”?
Suddenly there, to make matters worse. It is not the first or last alternative to the new corona, but accredited experts around the world are concerned about this. This is not a good sign. The new “Alternate Now” (from the Greek letter of the alphabet “now”) It appeared in southern African countries, such as Botswana and South Africa, and where it strikes, it is quickly replacing the already dangerous delta variant that we know here today. An issue has already appeared in our country. The biggest cause for concern is that we are not sure if our current vaccines can handle the new alternative.
“Governments around the world are responding to travel bans from South African countries. The United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore have already announced this. On behalf of the European Union member states, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also announced early travel restrictions. Panic over “Alternative Now” has arrived To the stock markets already.Globally, the prices of stocks and oil are falling, due to fears of new uncertainty and a blow to the global economy.
“The concerns about what is happening in Africa are a painful reminder of another largely neglected aspect of the Corona crisis: the slow vaccination campaign in poor countries due to the difficulty of obtaining vaccines. Promises of rapid distribution from the West have not been fulfilled, leaving Covid free to mutate.”
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