Belgium announces mandatory monkeypox quarantine

The Belgium government announced it’s introducing mandatory quarantining for anyone who tests positive for monkeypox, despite the supposed low transmissibility of the virus and having less than five active cases.

“Infected persons will have to go into contact isolation until the injuries have healed (they will receive concrete instructions about this from the treating doctor),” the government’s announcement reads [translated from Dutch].

According to the Harvard Global Health Institute, “Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that may lead to flu-like symptoms, swelling of lymph nodes, and a characteristic rash in humans. The virus is related to smallpox, but is less infectious and has milder symptoms…. Monkeypox is not easily spread between humans. That being said, the true burden of disease may be underestimated, and better understanding of transmission is needed.”

As of Monday, Belgium has only confirmed four cases and appears to be overreacting despite researchers’ advice.

Similarly, the UK is recommending that those with a “high risk” of environmental contact with someone who has monkeypox should self-isolate, much like they recommended and later enforced with COVID-19.

The UK currently has only twenty cases of monkeypox.

While Sweden has reclassified monkeypox as “an illness representing a danger to society,” the country, which was reluctant to enforce any restrictions during COVID, is significantly more level-headed in its response.

“There is no reason to tie monkeypox to COVID-19 and everything that makes people think of, such as fear of the illness and societal measures to control it,” said Health Minister Lena Hallengren.

“There will be no limits or restrictions on how we live due to monkeypox. There are no plans to do that.”

Umea University epidemiologist Fredrik Elgh shares Hallengren’s view, saying that it’s unlikely any COVID-like restrictions will be needed for monkeypox and that the people have no reason to be worried.

“The general public do not need to be worried about monkeypox,” Elgh said. “But my belief and hope is that this will not be a pandemic like corona. The most likely scenario is that as long as we contact trace properly, it will ebb out.”

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