If the expected fourth wave of coronavirus infections hits Belgium, vaccinated people should not be deprived of their freedoms again, says president of the Flemish socialist Vooruit party, Conner Rousseau.
Vaccinated people should not be the victims of those who have decided not to get vaccinated if stricter measures should again become necessary, he said on VRT's 'De Afspraak' on Wednesday evening.
"It remains to be seen how the number of infections and hospitalisations will develop in the autumn and winter, but in the worst-case scenario, measures will be taken," Rousseau said.
"In that case, people who have not been vaccinated cannot be allowed to ruin it for people who have taken responsibility and shown solidarity," he added. "We cannot tolerate punishing 90% for a few selfish people."
Making sure that the vaccinated will not have to give up their freedoms could be done by using the Covid Safe Ticket in a lot more places, instead of only at events, according to Rousseau.
"At some point, we are going to have to show that there are benefits to getting vaccinated. That is good for you and for society," he said.
On Thursday 2 September, 91% of the entire population in Flanders has been fully vaccinated, compared to 66% in Wallonia and just over 50% in the Brussels-Capital Region.
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Previously, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon stated that "there will probably be a fourth wave, maybe a fifth and a sixth wave too, but that will be mainly for the non-vaccinated, and they will have to take their own responsibility."
He also stated that, if or when that next wave hits, the authorities are not immediately considering the reintroduction or tightening of certain measures. "However, we will make sure that the non-vaccinated are well taken care of in our care system. That’s what it’s there for."
Rousseau is concerned about the situation in Brussels in particular, as the vaccination coverage is "notably lower than in the rest of the country."
Despite the fact that the Capital-Region launched a number of initiatives to increase vaccinations by making them more accessible, including 'vacci-buses' and vaccinations in schools, pharmacies and large stores like IKEA, Carrefour and Action, Rousseau would like to "add some pepper" to the campaign there.
However, Rousseau made it clear he does not believe that making vaccination mandatory for the entire population is the answer to improve the region's lower vaccination rates (currently).
Earlier this week, Rousseau's Walloon counterpart, Francophone socialist PS party president Paul Magnette spoke out in favour of "opening the debate on compulsory vaccination for the entire population."
"When a fifth or sixth wave follows the fourth, when new variants keep appearing and we cannot eradicate this virus, then it becomes unsustainable and it becomes a public health issue," he told La Libre.
On Wednesday, the president of the Francophone Christian-democratic party (cdH), Maxime Prévot, agreed with Magnette, saying that while it was normal that parties initially favoured the voluntary way, "this approach has shown its limits."
"We should not target certain sectors more than others. We should be able to address compulsory vaccination for all sectors and for everyone," Prévot added. "This is a debate that we must have together without taboos."