‘All indicators on red’: rectors call for urgent action and unity on corona


The leaders of the five Flemish universities criticise the lack of urgency and respect for security measures as the infection rate rises

‘Literally and figuratively deadly’

The rectors of Flanders’ universities have written an open letter to the government calling for urgent measures to prevent further outbreaks of Covid-19, warning that “all indicators are on red” and that the risk of “super-spreading” during the holiday period is high.

In the letter, Luc De Schepper (UHasselt), Caroline Pauwels (VUB), Luc Sels (KU Leuven), Rik Van de Walle (UGent) and Herman Van Goethem (UAntwerp) criticise the lack of urgency among both policymakers and the public, contradictory statements by politicians and attempts to attribute blame for the handling of the crisis.

“The painfully slow decision-making process in the approach to the second wave is of great concern to us,” they say. “Policy levels look at each other. Failed policies are remedied too slowly. They are complemented by well-intentioned initiatives, which actually increase the risk of inadequate information flow. And that is literally and figuratively deadly. The crisis is not just a little federal, and a little regional, and a little provincial, and a little local. We expressly advocate unity of command, depending on the measures to be taken, always at the most appropriate administrative level.”

Next steps

They also call on citizens to more strictly respect the safety measures and not “play with the lives of our fellow human beings”.

“Have we all learned so little from all the efforts of the past few months?,” they ask. “Did we applaud all those evenings for nothing for our healthcare staff and for all the other, often anonymous, fellow human beings who guided us through the first wave of the crisis? Are we going to expose our family and friends, our elderly, our weak to devastating health risks through irresponsible behaviour and lack of policy?”

The crisis is not just a little federal, and a little regional, and a little provincial, and a little local

With the infection rate rising sharply, the National Security Council met today to discuss the next steps in Belgium’s strategy. Prime minister Sophie Wilmès (pictured above) announced that masks would be compulsory at markets, funfairs, shopping streets and all busy spaces, with each municipality in charge of defining which areas these are. The requirement also applies to cafes and restaurants, except when customers are sitting down. Customers must leave their contact details, which will be kept for 14 days to allow contact tracing.

Antwerp had previously announced similar additional measures locally, with a quarter of all new cases in Belgium being reported in the city. There has been a 79% increase in case across the country in the past week, with a high of 370 reported on 20 July.

Photo: Belga/pool/Dirk Waem