The state « answers » our questions

After more than four and a half months of waiting, while the State promised that other journalists would relay my questions in a press conference, which obviously never took place, the State, via its lawyers, answered some of them by mail, on September 4. That is, if you can call it an « answer », because the answer implies taking the question into account, whether you are for or against it. Logical, however, as the language of wood is not a language, but a rhetoric. It is surprising to note how each « answer » from the State is almost systematically preceded by this warning:  » The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. It is ignored to provide elements of response « Wikipedia defines « langue de bois » as « a pejorative rhetorical cliché used to disqualify an opponent’s argument by claiming that it is made up of stereotyped formulas . Isn’t that clearly what this formula that serves as an introduction to their answer means? 

Below is the full letter from the state, with my questions, preceded by a dash, and their « answers », in bold. 

- At a press conference in early August, the tragic death of a three-year-old girl was mentioned, attributing it to Covid. Her father testified in the press, explaining that on July 16, his daughter « had been placed in intensive care where Covid-19 infection was subsequently diagnosed. The parents also tested positive »: « It was the coronavirus that came with her, but not the coronavirus that killed her. We shouldn’t scare the world for nothing. It is a lot of show all that », he regrets « . This type of communication, which has political effects, namely the hardening of measures, but also generates anguish and worry among parents and grandparents, as the start of the school year approaches, is in our opinion proof of amateurism, or a desire to instill fear. How does the government collect and verify this Covid information?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

This story, reported in the press, has marked many Belgians, including political representatives. In such circumstances, the authorities offered their condolences.

Policy decisions are made on the basis of reports containing both health data and recommendations expressed by experts.

- Can you tell us about the government’s dealings with multinational pharmaceutical companies, especially GSK? What is the status of your current collaboration with the latter? Knowing in particular that Pascal Lizin is both President of the Société fédérale de participations et d’investissement (SFPI) and director at GSK as the main person in charge of lobbying. It was also SFPI that put Vesalius Biocapital, where Philippe De Backer worked, in its « strategic priorities » (see https://www.kairospresse .be/article/155505

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

The government has contacts with the pharmaceutical sector as a whole, as it does with all sectors of our economic and social fabric. It does not have a privileged relationship with one company at the expense of others. On important issues such as the development of a vaccine against Covid-19, the European Union has established a centralized procurement procedure that does not allow member states to conduct their own negotiations separately, in order to ensure solidarity among member states.

The accusation against the people mentioned in the question should be directed at the main people involved.

- Since the beginning of the coronavirus in Belgium, nothing is said or done about the major risk, much greater than an epidemic, which concerns climate change and the major dangers for humanity associated with it. However, while covid-19 would have allowed us to rethink our entire model of society, you hasten to financially support Brussel Airlines, which participates in the destruction of our ecosystem; nothing is done to curb air pollution, for which the automobile is largely responsible. Worldwide, 7 million people die every year from poor air quality; in Belgium, more than 10,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution. Do you intend to perpetuate this policy of growth, which has brought us to where we are today, and of which Covid-19 is also the result?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

It is wrong to claim that no action has been taken to combat global warming since the beginning of the health crisis. The Green Deal has, for example, been at the heart of European discussions in which Belgium has actively participated, within the framework of the MFF (Multi annual. Financial Framework)

Environmental policy, including air quality improvement, is largely regionalized in Belgium. The various competent regional ministers will be able to report on their actions.

During the negotiations with Brussels Airlines, the government made it known that it was asking « guarantees (…) for the proper implementation of a realistic and forward-looking business plan for Brussels Airlines, focused on profitable, environmentally responsible growth and offering employment prospects. »

- Could you detail the numbers among those who test positive: which ones are asymptomatic, which ones require treatment but can stay at home, and which ones require hospitalization?

Everything is available in the Sciensano reports. Interfederal spokespersons and the administration are able to provide additional information.

- Never in more than 5 months have you specifically mentioned the fact that the mortality attributed to Covid was in fact affecting people with co-morbid conditions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders) or the very elderly. You also ignored potential remedies and practices that could, at a lower cost, increase immunity. While the conflicts of interest of the groups of experts and government members, which you unashamedly call « privacy », are obvious, we can legitimately ask ourselves what dictates the government’s choices: money or the common good. In view of your previous decisions, notably as Minister of the Budget, but also as a member of a party, the MR, which has always worked in favour of the richest (cf. notably the « notional interests » introduced by Didier Reynders), you will admit that doubt is allowed. Can you assure us that no private group is profiting from Covid-19 and the decisions that are made by your government?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

These data were published in the weekly reports on the Sciensano website.

The RAG (Risk Assement Group) does not provide therapeutic advice; such a mission is the responsibility of clinicians. A panel of clinicians met and issued a public opinion on COVID treatments based on a review of peer-reviewed articles, scientific evidence, and their clinical experience.

No decision is made to benefit any individual.

- During the press conference of July 27, Elio Di Rupo, whom I questioned, did not seem to be aware that only one man was behind the tracing measures, a certain Frank Robben. Could you tell us more?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

The measures relating to contact tracing have been the subject of a cooperation agreement between the federated entities and the federal government. This agreement was discussed at the Inter-ministerial Conference on Health and at the Consultation Committee. In addition, the operationality of Testing & Contact tracing is ensured by an Interfederal Testing and Tracing Platform, which includes representatives of the federated entities and the federal government, chaired by Karine Moykens.

- Mental health professionals indicate that many people consult them for disorders related to the present situation, of which depression, loss of meaning and suicidal thoughts are largely part. Do you weigh the collateral damage of your measures against their benefits when you decide on them, in a kind of cost/benefit calculation for the population? Do you have figures for the social/individual effects of your decisions?

Mental health is a shared jurisdiction between different levels of government.

As early as March 2020, the Interdepartmental Health Conference addressed this issue. The correlation between containment measures and mental health was also discussed in the Mental Health WG of the ESWG during April/May/June.

At the federal level, certain measures have been taken, such as the introduction of video consultations, the expansion of the target audience for psychological reimbursement and the reinforcement of support in hospitals. The first RIZIV figures for video consultation, for example, indicate that there is not a strong peak. 

- Do you think it is possible to avoid covid-19 contamination completely? In this field, there is no such thing as zero risk, yet one gets the impression that this is what you want to make people believe. What about herd immunity, which according to some virologists will be essential to reduce contamination if the virus returns seasonally, herd immunity which you do not take into account at all?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

The goal has always been to control the epidemic, which is different from the goal of « zero infection ».

- Sweden, which has taken measures quite different from those of Belgium, refusing the generalized confinement, and shows results that are not alarming, while some promised tens of thousands of deaths. What consequences do you draw from this?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

While Sweden’s approach differs from many other European states, measures similar to those introduced in Europe (closing schools, limiting gatherings, travel restrictions, etc.) have been taken, sometimes much later. The country also has a much higher number of victims than its neighboring countries whose characteristics (density, etc.) are quite similar. The Swedish strategy is subject to debate. It is too early to draw a balance sheet while the epidemic is not over.

- How do you explain that at the most crucial moment of the epidemic, only one laboratory was designated for the whole territory? This totally determined the number of tests and the criteria to perform them.

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

During the first wave, the scientific experts clearly insisted on the necessity to associate the decontamination strategy with a testing policy in order to succeed. This testing policy took into account the worldwide shortage of reagents that hit clinical labs, allowing them to perform no more than 7,000 tests per day. Thanks to a protocol from the University of Namur, an alternative testing method that consumes less reagents has finally been developed. A national platform to increase capacity through the pooling of equipment has also been established.

The Cabinet of Minister De Backer can provide more information.

- Can you confirm to us at this date, while you are tightening the measures, in particular in Brussels with the imposition of the mask in all public places, that the lethality rate of Covid is only decreasing?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

The National Security Council has never imposed the wearing of masks in all public spaces.

The compulsory wearing of masks in the public space in Brussels is a decision of the Brussels regional government, which should therefore be addressed.

- There is no scientific basis to impose the wearing of masks everywhere. What criteria do you rely on then?

The question includes incorrect insinuations that do not correspond to reality. This is ignored in order to provide elements of an answer.

The role played by asymptomatic people in the Covid 19 virus infection is scientifically proven. By definition, these asymptomatics cannot be identified. Wearing a mask can therefore limit contamination by them. It also reduces the risk of contamination.

The scientific literature and reports from institutions such as the WHO demonstrate the benefits of wearing a mask.

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