Now that a new lockdown is only a matter of time, the theory of ‘the hammer and the dance’ by the Spanish engineer Tomas Pueyo is re-emerging. A lockdown, ‘the hammer’, only makes sense if afterwards the government learns to ‘dance’ with the virus, or to keep the virus under control. Virologist Marc Van Ranst gave an explanation of ‘Nieuwe Feiten’ (Radio 1).
Pueyo published an essay in March describing what countries can do when corona infections are rising exponentially. Tens of millions of people read the piece. Whether a lockdown has an effect is beyond dispute. The problem is that a lockdown not only slows down the virus, but also the economy.
“It is not completely unexpected that the hammer will be pulled out for a second time,” said Van Ranst. “We didn’t get the full effect last time. We got stuck on about eighty cases a day and should have brought this to a lower number. You buy more time between the different outbreaks that would occur anyway. ” “So we should have kept hitting the hammer longer and harder,” added presenter Lieven Vandenhaute.
If governments do not learn to dance with the virus, a lockdown is pointless, Pueyo repeated a few days ago with the Dutch public broadcaster NOS. Van Ranst explained this. “After deploying the hammer, an interim period begins, ‘the dance’. You have to be able to immediately unpack with a good test strategy and set up solid contact tracing. If there is a local flare-up, you should take quarantine measures right away. All things that have not gone flawlessly. ”
So the ‘dance’ is the real deal. A very long period that must last until the arrival of a vaccine with which (in the long term) immunity can be obtained in the population. ”
“They are not participating”
Were all measures for corona-safe shopping, sports and dining all for nothing, the KU Leuven virologist was presented with. “No, these have slowed things down. Enormous efforts have been made. The problem is that these efforts have been followed up by 85 to 90 percent of the population, while 10 percent do not care about the measures. They don’t participate, which leads to a flare-up. Taking measures without proper enforcement – which is difficult, I admit – allows a few people to screw up the rest. ”
“Flare-ups are not abnormal, look at Antwerp last summer. Very tough measures such as a curfew and other restrictions then got the situation under control. The small fires could thus be extinguished. The governor and the Antwerp mayor then ‘danced’ well. This did lead to a mountain of criticism against us. People made fun of us, others started lawsuits. But it was necessary. ”
“A lockdown is necessary to buy time and make the situation less tiring. The current one cannot be sustained for long. When you (through a lockdown) manage to reduce the number of cases to a small number, the contact tracing can do its job perfectly. Tracing the contacts of an infected person, but also tracing the source of the infection. With 20,000 cases in a day, this is extremely difficult to carry out. Something like that is an impossible task for our healthcare sector. We have to admit that contact tracing works better in Flanders than in Brussels, and certainly better than in Wallonia, where the major current outbreak started. ”
“The virus doesn’t do anything without us”
The second lockdown has not yet been officially announced, but Van Ranst is already looking ahead. A possible third lockdown cannot be ruled out, “but it is impossible to predict”. “The virus won’t do anything without us. It does not depend on the measures, it depends on how the population follows the measures. There are no big secrets there. All you need to do is minimize the risk of the virus spreading. Not pleasant at all, but necessary. ”
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