Lockdown measures in Belgium will continue for the next two weeks at least.
The government’s decision came during a virtual meeting Friday of the country’s Consultative Committee on COVID-19, with Prime Minister Alexander de Croo saying it is “too early” to relax the rules, despite the decreasing caseload.
The Belgian premier also said that the impact of returning travellers after Christmas and the reopening of schools both meant that the trajectory of the virus was less predictable currently.
It’s likely to leave many people disappointed after months of confinement and with numbers slowly going down.
However, according to Professor Steven Van Gucht, Head of Viral Diseases at Sciensano, now is not the time to be complacent.
“I don’t think the time is ripe to loosen restrictions,” Van Gucht told Euronews.
“First of all, numbers are better in Belgium than in a lot of other European countries, but they are not good. They are not where we want them to be. They’re still at least two times too high to really say that we can really loosen up measures.”
Belgium’s Christmas was one of the strictest in Europe, with people being limited to just one close contact.
The country is still recording averages of roughly 1,600 infections and 130 hospitalisations per day, but this tough measure is exactly why the country’s cases aren’t significantly higher Van Gucht explained.
“For me, that’s the most likely explanation when numbers in Belgium for the moment are better than in a lot of other European countries,” the Head of Viral Diseases said.
But he added: “Things will start to lighten up but not now we have to be a little bit patient. It would be a mistake now to have a third wave that we can avoid. The vaccine is there. There is light at the end of the tunnel and that’s really the main message.”