At the request of Mrs. Maggie De Block, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, the Council of Ministers has extended the appointment of Dr. Erika Vlieghe as national Ebola coordinator and Dr. Daniel Reynders as deputy coordinator for an extra six months.
“They will continue their work on the Ebola epidemic and we are widening the scope of their activities. Dr. Vlieghe, Dr. Reynders and their staff will develop a comprehensive plan of action on highly contagious diseases. They will also study the set-up of a specialized high-security unit for the treatment of these diseases”, said Mrs. De Block.
On 3 March 2015, during the international Ebola conference in Brussels, the European Commission stressed that all European countries should continue their efforts on Ebola for as long as there is a risk of active disease transmission. This means that national prevention measures are to remain in place but also that support is lent to the field in the affected West African countries. The European Commission congratulated Belgium’s determination to keep the international flight routes of Brussels Airlines via Brussels Airport going, and for the measures undertaken in Belgium itself. Since the beginning of the epidemic about 360 health workers and 40 tons of aid were flown weekly via Brussels to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. “Belgium keeps a close eye on the humanitarian needs in West Africa and will continue its efforts,” according to Alexander De Croo, Minister of Development Cooperation. “We support international organizations giving their all in the field to break the chain of transmission. At the same time we get ready to deploy our Belgian expertise through structural cooperation in at least one of the affected countries to restore the local healthcare systems. That is the best way to avoid future epidemics.”
The Council of Ministers has today decided to extend the mandate of Dr. Vlieghe and her deputy Dr. Reynders. Mrs. De Block: “We want them to continue building on the experience and the procedures of the past six months and to develop a comprehensive plan that will enable us to deal with highly contagious diseases that can cross borders.” The government wants Dr. Vlieghe to also examine the set-up of a specialized high-security unit for the treatment of infectious diseases, as stated in the coalition agreement.
Mrs. De Block appointed Dr. Vlieghe and Dr. Reynders on 17 October 2014, when Belgium was forced to take additional measures against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The epidemic broke out in March 2014 and has mainly affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Dr. Vlieghe is the head of the Unit of Tropical Diseases at the University Hospital Antwerp. Dr. Daniel Reynders heads the Department of International Relations and Public Health Emergencies of the Federal Agency of Public Health. As national Ebola coordinator, Dr. Vlieghe advises the Minister of Health and medically and scientifically coordinates the anti-Ebola efforts. She has drafted, evaluated and fine-tuned a set of procedures in close consultation with all relevant departments and institutions involved in the field and with the different regional authorities to ensure the safety of the Belgian people. Dr. Vlieghe and her team have also extensively communicated and disseminated information to the staff of relevant institutions such as airports, hospitals, the army, etc.