'Kafkaesque' system undermines Belgium's contact tracing efforts, local mayor says

'Kafkaesque' system undermines Belgium's contact tracing efforts, local mayor says
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"Kafkaesque" and uncoordinated contact tracing procedures across Belgium's regional borders could be undermining efforts to slow down the emergence of new coronavirus cases, the mayor of Vilvoorde said.

Mayor Hans Bonte pointed out difficulties in keeping track of new cases in municipalities like Vilvoorde, located in the Flemish Periphery of Brussels, right on the border of the capital region but on the territory of Flanders.

With people moving constantly into and out of each region and with an emergence of a potential cluster in Vilvoorde's Koningslo neighbourhood, Bonte said it was unclear whose responsibility it was to trigger a contact tracing procedure in the case of an established or suspicious risky contact.

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"Will Flemish officials call people in Brussels, in French, or not? Are my officials expected to call people from Brussels who come here to have a pint? Can we contact them, or not?" he said.

"There are no agreements on that between the regions (...) I don't know if I can ask my officials to contact French-speaking people from Laeken or Brussels," he said.

In an interview with Het Nieuswblad, Bonte said that Vilvoorde was not the only Flemish municipality neighbouring Brussels facing a similar situation, citing the cases of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw and Dilbeek.

"And this situation could be ongoing alongside one just as big in Brussels or in Antwerp," he added.

The mayor of the municipality of just under 50,000 said that regional authorities, while acknowledging a problem, were passing the ball on to the federal level.

"They say that the federal government must look into it and then all falls silent," he said. "I want the matter to be quickly clarified because, at the moment, it's pure Kafka."

"If you do not clarify how the following-up should be done, there will never be a decent contact tracing of infected persons across the regional borders, undermining the whole system."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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