Coronavirus: Visiting care centres is 'possibility, not obligation'

Coronavirus: Visiting care centres is 'possibility, not obligation'
Credit: Belga

Belgium's federal government received a lot of criticism for its decision to allow visits for residents in care centres in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

After the National Security Council met on Wednesday to discuss an update on the lockdown measures, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced that people living in residential care centres were allowed to receive only one visitor, who must be registered in advance, provided that this person has had no symptoms of illness in the last 2 weeks.

This decision received a lot of criticism from Zorgnet-Icuro, the umbrella organisation representing about 300 Flemish care centres, which stated that it would advise its centres against following the new guideline.

This had "definitely not been decided at the request of the residential care centres" and that they "were not involved in any consultation about it," according to the organisation's spokesperson, Margot Cloet, who called the decision "totally irresponsible."

The decision was deemed "risky" when the sector is facing a lack of means as well as a high risk of spreading the virus by Marc Verbruggen, the president of Femarbel, the president of the federation of nursing homes, who also pointed out that it was "understandable."

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Immediately after the announcement, Flemish Minister for Welfare and Public Health Wouter Beke, who is responsible for the care centres, asked to postpone the implementation of the guideline to look into how they would manage this safely.

Later the same evening, Wilmès stressed that these visits were "a possibility, not an obligation," on VTM news, while Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon acknowledged that the decision had been taken without consultation with the sector.

This consultation on how things should be done will have to take place in the coming days or weeks, according to the former federal minister.

"It is not the aim to let infected people into nursing homes," Jambon said. "It has not been said that this measure should take effect immediately," said Jambon, adding that the measure had been taken for the residents "who have been locked up for four weeks now."

"I see how the situation is right now, and we have to do something about it," added Wilmès. "And whether that happens today, tomorrow or in a couple of weeks, that's not a problem. But something has to be done," she added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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