“The end of a phase,” says virologist Marc Van Ranst on Friday, after the Consultation Committee announced that code yellow will apply from Monday. “The cards are good, it is certainly okay to switch to code yellow,” responds biostatistician Geert Molenberghs. Virologist Steven Van Gucht warns that it could take another year or two before it is clear whether the pandemic is over.
The various organisations of the country decided on Friday to switch to code yellow from the corona barometer. This means that almost all restrictions will be lifted: face masks must only be worn in healthcare institutions and on public transport. Rules around the Passenger Locator Form are being relaxed.
Was this the last Consultation Committee? “I would hope so. There are now other cats to flog,” says Van Ranst. “The numbers are going in the right direction. Of course, when you look at the number of people who end up in hospital every day, that figure is still twice as high as the 65 limit (to be able to go to code yellow, ed.) , but it drops by about 27 to 28 percent each week. Suppose you could maintain that speed, you would reach 65 on about 20 March,” explains Van Ranst.
“What we have to keep in mind is that we now have fairly low figures for the number of new infections per day,” said van Ranst. But, warned the virologist, “we should also focus on the number of new cases. They will probably rise again at some point. We have to keep an eye on the ball and the ball is those hospital admissions and the intensive care units. ”
Molenberghs: ‘Figures will continue to fall’
“The situation is favourable,” says biostatistician Geert Molenberghs (KU Leuven/UHasselt). According to the mathematical models, the numbers will continue to go down. “It is difficult to pin down an exact date, but the decline also appears to be continuing in the longer term.”
Molenberghs does point out that it is best to take the autumn and winter period into account. “The seasonal effect can then play a role. We will continue to monitor the situation.”
Van Gucht: ‘Severe flare-ups remain possible’
Sciensano virologist Steven Van Gucht pointed out to VTM , among other things, the importance of good ventilation and also expressed his hope that people will continue to wear a face mask on public transport when they are sick, even when this is no longer mandatory. That’s a form of courtesy, he says.
According to the virologist, the country will be in a manageable situation in the coming weeks and months. However, he also says that immunity, which is still quite good, will weaken and that new variants will appear.
“Viruses vary continuously, that’s a virological fact. There might be some heavy surges and then we’ll have to switch again,” he says. “The question is what that will mean for the disease burden. Can hospitals handle the infections within normal functional operation, as is the case with the flu? If that is not the case, then we may have to fall back on the use of face masks. That is difficult to predict.”
Van Gucht also emphasises that we have barely had a flu season in the past two years due to the corona measures. “Next year the situation may have normalised and then we will get a mixed picture. We will have to wait and see what that will mean,” said the virologist. According to Van Gucht, it will take another year or two before it is clear whether the pandemic is over.