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Measures will have to be extended past 5 April, says epidemiologist

18:24 18/03/2020

According to KU Leuven epidemiologist Annemie Vandamme, the current measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Belgium will have to be extended long past 5 April. The peak of the infections will only be reached in about two weeks’ time, she told Radio 1.

But there is good news, she said. “We actually know quite a lot about the virus now. We’ve never known this much about a new virus in so short a time. We know, for instance, that people who have no symptoms can still pass the virus on. We didn’t know that a month ago. We also have a rough idea of how many people are walking around with the virus with light symptoms or with no symptoms at all. And we know that about half the people who get infected will never know it.”

And yesterday China began to test a vaccine on people. “That’s incredibly fast, and it’s hopeful.”

She finds the current measures taken by the Belgian government perfectly reasonable. “It was necessary because it communicates to the public how serious the situation is,” she said. She’s kind, though, to those of us who didn’t realise it until  now. “I also didn’t see the impact and the size of the pandemic coming. I have also learned a lesson from this.”

The better we behave, the faster it will be over

China, she points out, started the measures Belgium is taking now earlier in the course of the breakout of the infections. “Italy waited longer. They’re doing this now, but the peak of new infections isn’t over yet. The measures announced last week were sufficient, but most people simply didn’t adhere to them. So I think we’ll have to extend the current, stricter measures.”

To that end, a Belgian living in China has offered a bit of advice. The country is starting to come back to life, with people being allowed out of their homes and some schools opening back up.

“The same will happen in Belgium,” Heleen Vrancken told VRT. “But you’ve got to bite it and stay inside.”

Vrancken is from Limburg and now lives in Shaoxing on the east coast of China. “We still need to put one meter of distance between us, wash our hands well, take our temperature and wear face masks. Because little kids have a hard time keeping the masks in place, the primary schools are still closed.”

Belgians have got to stay inside as much as possible, she emphasises. “Then you will avoid a situation where you can really do absolutely nothing, like we experienced,” she said. “Having to stay home alone is really not fun, so do everything that is being asked of you.”

Photo: Belga Handout

Written by Lisa Bradshaw