“Le Soir” compared the deconfinement strategy proposed by the group of experts in charge of the exit strategy and that presented by Sophie Wilmès on Friday evening. And there are a few surprises.
The role of the experts from GEES (the group in charge of deconfinement) is to produce recommendations. The role of the political decision-makers of the National Security Council (CNS) is to decide. And there is no requirement for politicians to follow expert reports to the letter.
Besides, Friday evening, the recommendations of the experts on the deconfinement strategy were not followed across the board. Let’s be honest: the majority of the suggestions from the GEES have been validated. But there are some differences of view, sometimes major, between the two parties. The evening compiled them.
1. Four phases instead of three
Experts, like the CNS, play the caution card: it is obvious that if the health situation deteriorates, the deconfinement schedule will be revised. To be able to monitor the progress of deconfinement, the experts therefore proposed phases of at least two weeks: the first from Monday, May 4, the next from May 18, and the third step before June 8. The purpose of this spacing was to ensure that each phase of deconfinement was under control (no major rebound of the epidemic) before starting the next. We know that there is a minimum of 10 days between the time a person is infected and the time they are admitted to the hospital (time to incubate the virus and develop severe symptoms). The effect of the first release on May 4 will therefore not be seen on the hospital admissions curves until May 14. Hence the idea of experts not to open a second valve before being able to measure the impact of the first set of measurements.
But our leaders have decided otherwise. Even though they are still talking about three phases (with a component 1.A and 1.B), there are actually four phases in Sophie Wilmès’ plan. To put it simply: the factories reopened on May 4, shops on May 11, schools on May 18 and the catering industry on June 8. Monitoring will obviously remain important, and the First announced that it would be possible to reverse if the epidemic resumed too quickly. But one thing is certain: on May 11, when the shops are reopened, we will not have all the indicators necessary to analyze the health impact of the first wave of May 4. A major difference with the scenario of the experts.
2. The global reopening of businesses
The GEES planned to reopen businesses in two stages. As of May 4, they proposed to authorize the revival of hardware stores, stores of building materials, carpets, paint, lighting, textiles (to allow the making of masks) or repair of bicycles. By appointment, they also pleaded for the possibility of going to the technical control, to the garage, or to meet a real estate agent. All the other businesses should have waited until May 18 for the business to resume.
But the CNS did not hear it that way. Our leaders preferred to opt for a general reopening of all businesses by cutting the pear in half: from May 11. “Without discrimination of size and sector, which leaves everyone the same chances of success,” says Sophie Wilmès. There is, however, an exception: fabric stores and haberdashery, which can resume on May 4, to allow fashion designers to embark on the production of masks.
3. Football training
In their report on Thursday, beyond petanque and kayaking, the GEES suggested reviving collective sports as of May 4, under certain conditions. Experts were ready to authorize the resumption of physical training without contact outside for football or hockey clubs, for example, provided that a coach is present and that physical distances are respected. A way of “giving priority to activities with a high social or psychological impact, with particular attention to young people for whom contact with friends is crucial,” wrote the experts.
But this point is passed over, and is postponed to May 18. And again, it is at this stage only a “track to study” by the CNS.
4. The parks
In its report on Thursday, the GEES wrote that, as of May 4, local authorities could decide to reopen parks and public spaces, with the exception of the playgrounds. This point simply disappeared from the official government communication. No word on the subject, Friday.
5. Testing and tracing
The group of experts in charge of deconfinement was very clear on the conditions precedent to the opening of a first valve. In the introduction to their report, they present the carrying out of tests (25,000 per day) and an effective tracing policy as two of the conditions absolutely necessary for any relaxation. In other words, if these tests are not ready or if the officials who will have to trace the course of the infected Belgians are not available, there is no question of deconfining. However, Belgium does not yet seem to be fully up to date on these two elements. And on May 4, it’s in eight days …
Sophie Wilmès’ communication was therefore somewhat different. “To ensure deconfinement in the best possible conditions, testing and tracing will play a major role”. These are now “conditions for success” of deconfinement. But at no point did the Liberal say that the first deadline would be postponed if the 25,000 daily tests were not available by May 4, or if the regional officials in charge of the tracing investigations were not ready.
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Video provided by RTL Info