Jean-Luc Gala, specialist in infectious diseases: ‘The virus must circulate’ – Belgium

“Virologists work with figures, doctors with patients,” says Professor Jean-Luc Gala, head of the Saint-Luc hospital in Brussels.

The number of corona infections in Brussels is increasing rapidly. Experts such as biostatistician Geert Molenberghs require extra restrictions.

The number of corona infections in Brussels is increasing rapidly. Experts such as biostatistician Geert Molenberghs require extra restrictions. Jean-Luc Gala: Always the same stories from the same, limited group of experts. I do not agree at all, because the number of positive tests does not mean anything in itself. These are usually asymptomatic patients. There has not been a sharp increase in the number of hospital admissions, certainly not in intensive care, and the latter is the real indicator of the severity of the pandemic. Moreover, a lot of testing is done in Brussels, and the more tests, the more infections. But if the virus gets stronger again, young people will eventually infect older people and the number of hospital admissions and deaths will increase again, right? Gala: That’s not right either. Our elders have since learned to protect themselves. Most people also wear the mouth mask much better than they used to. As long as we maintain these kinds of measures, the situation will not get out of hand. Virologists and epidemiologists are laboratory experts, but we should not take the lab as a starting point, but reality. While waiting for a vaccine, people must also be able to work and live. The biggest danger at the moment is not the virus itself, but the fact that the population is fed up, and therefore may not want to comply with the corona measures at all. During the first wave, not only the very elderly, but many people from the age of 50 with serious health problems ended up in hospital. That can happen again now, right? Gala: That was a minority and most of them have also left the hospital healthy again. In addition, wearing a face mask was then advised against by the same experts who are now calling for tougher measures, and the government has followed suit. That advice turned out disastrous in the first wave. Virologists warn that it is dangerous to minimize current corona numbers. Do you feel addressed? Gala: Not at all. The corona measures are simply too strict in relation to the actual situation, and that is not the situation that virologists and epidemiologists tell us. They work with numbers, we work with patients – two completely different things right now. In order to achieve a kind of generalized immunity, the virus must circulate in a controlled manner. Provided that we continue to provide maximum protection for the elderly and at-risk patients. For the rest of the population, moderate, feasible measures are sufficient, which enable a more or less normal life: wearing a mask in busy neighborhoods, keeping their distance and limiting social contacts to, for example, ten to fifteen people.

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