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22 Mar, 2020 15:48

‘Million dollar question!’ Belgian health minister jokes on how long coronavirus lockdown will last

‘Million dollar question!’ Belgian health minister jokes on how long coronavirus lockdown will last

Belgium has been put on almost total lockdown as Europe battles the deadly coronavirus epidemic that has effected tens of thousands. Yet, Belgian health minister believes the virus will calm down in eight weeks or so.

When asked by a reporter about how long restriction imposed by the government to supposedly stop the spread of the disease will last, Minister Maggie De Block jokingly said it was a “million dollar question.”

“We are now heading toward the peak of the epidemic, after which the curve will descend. I think this situation will last for at least another eight weeks. It would be the normal curve,” she told a local De Zondag newspaper. The minister said the her estimation was based on the example of China and South Korea.

China, where the virus first originated, has arguably beaten the epidemic with seven weeks of rigid quaratine, which saw the disease epicenter, the city of Wuhan, put on a total lockdown. South Korea opted for an unprecedentedly widespread diagnostic instead but also introduced measures aimed at social distancing and self-isolation, some of which are still in place about a month after the disease passed its peak there in late February.

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Since March 17, Belgians have only been allowed to leave their homes to get some food or to help those in need, as well as for health-related issues. The nation’s daily life has almost been brought to a standstill since all entertainment venues as well as schools and universities were closed, while most companies allowed their employees to work from home.

So far, these measures, which also involve a ban on any gatherings and non-essential travels abroad, are expected to last at least until April 5. Yet, the minister’s words suggest that Belgians should probably brace for a longer period of self-isolation.

Belgium is not as severely hit by the novel coronavirus, officially known as Covid-19 as some of its European neighbors, like Germany or France, where the number of those infected is between seven and ten times higher than in the small European kingdom. Still, the nation appears to be 13th worst hit in the world and the ninth in Europe, as more than 2,800 people contracted the virus nationwide and 67 of them died.

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