Coronavirus: Flanders refuses to allow visits to care centres

Coronavirus: Flanders refuses to allow visits to care centres
Credit: Belga

Visiting Flemish residential care centres is not allowed, as the rules will not be changed, despite the new guideline issued by the federal government 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.

However, not even an hour after the announcement, the care sector denounced the measure, with Zorgnet-Icuro, the umbrella organisation representing about 300 Flemish care centres, saying that allowing visitors was "totally irresponsible" and advising its centres against following it.

This guideline had “definitely not been decided at the request of the residential care centres,” said the organisation’s spokesperson Margot Cloet, and they “were not involved in any consultation about it."

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Later the same evening, Wilmès stressed that these visits were “a possibility, not an obligation,” while Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon clarified that the measure had been taken for the residents “who have been locked up for four weeks now," but also confirmed that the sector had not been consulted.

On Thursday, the Flemish government announced that the rules in the Flemish residential care centres will remain unchanged for the time being. "Visits are not possible. And they will remain not possible. We are not changing those rules now. No matter how difficult that may be for the people staying there and their families," said Jambon and Flemish Minister for Public Health Wouter Beke to De Morgen.

"I placed residential care centres and other facilities in lockdown weeks ago, and that will remain so until further notice," said Beke to VTM News. "That decision was very far-reaching, and we will have to think about visiting rights and under what circumstances that could happen, but that must be done in consultation with the sector, and not unexpectedly," he added.

The task force for health care set up by the Flemish government last week will now start consultations with the various sectors to see when and how the rules could be relaxed.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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