In his diary published in De Morgen, the Flemish virologist Marc Van Ranst says he missed the fugitive military man Jürgen Conings by chance.
Normally Van Ranst works long days and comes home in the evening between 19:30 and 23:30, but on Monday 17 May – the day the armed Conings watched the virologists house – he was at home earlier than usual. He had given himself half a days leave “which made me home at 5:30 for the first time in eighteen months. Never happened in the last year and a half. If that man knew a little bit of my routine, he could just be waiting for me any other day. That is a terrible thought.”
Van Ranst has been hiding in a safe house with his wife and son Milo for almost three weeks and is constantly guarded. “It is impossible not to feel safe here”, jokes Van Ranst in the Belgian newspaper.
A very concrete, demonstrable threat
He outlines how on Tuesday afternoon 18 May he learned from the police of threats from Conings. “He told me there was a very concrete, demonstrable threat, and that the police would come and pick me up.”
Van Ranst says in his diary at his safe house he just keeps working, albeit with limitations. He is forced to follow meetings online, but that has been nothing new since the beginning of the pandemic. He is surprised, however, that the military who is targeting him has received support from the I support Jürgen Conings movement. “Then you think: uh, what the hell. So there are people who think hes a hero? Weird.”
And, “If you go into those groups, youll see that its more than support for Conings. Some of these people also think it is obvious that Marc Van Ranst has to go. The message that I am most in front of my eyes is one where a pronosity was made: when, and with how many bullet holes will Conings finish Van Ranst?”
Become combative of it
Nevertheless, he suggests not to be intimidated. “Rather, I become combative of that. Admitting to harassment doesnt work either. That just reinforces the idea of harassment marching, and I dont want them to do that.”
The virologist has not lost his sense of humor. “The worst had yet to come,” he says about his hiding experiences. “My family here forced me to watch the song festival. Even to the two semifinals. (..) Look at me here talking about the song festival. You see, Im obviously not doing well.”
He says to undergo this period left. “Its what it is. There are much worse things. Its not like I have to work in the coal mines.”
He is also optimistic about the curbing of the pandemic. Van Ranst: “The great work is done. The curve is going down, the government is easing. And now we know: thats the moment when everyone suddenly became smart and knew perfectly how to do everything. The ability to predict the past is impressive in some.”