Coronavirus: Belgian supermarket faces legal action after death of employee

Coronavirus: Belgian supermarket faces legal action after death of employee
Illustration picture shows Colryut costumers lining up to enter a store. © Belga

The family of a Colruyt employee who died after contracting the new coronavirus (Covid-19) says it will take legal action against the Belgian retailer.

The employee's brother-in-law, Hatim Doghmi, told Belgian media that his family had hired two lawyers and would seek compensation from the company.

"The main question is where he contracted the virus, and [the answer] is: at work," Doghmi said. "It is inexcusable that he was not fully protected against contamination there."

On Monday, the Colruyt Group confirmed reports that a 32-year-old supermarket worker, a father of two identified as Mohamed Nahi, had died in his sleep on 2 April after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

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While a company spokesperson told The Brussels Times at that time that Colryut was not in a position to confirm whether Mohamed's death was directly linked to the virus, Nahi's family has since released his death certificate to the media.

"Four doctors have concluded that he died of Covid-19," Doghmi told Bruzz, noting that his brother-in-law first started coughing on 15 March.

"He had all the known symptoms, such as coughing and a loss of taste, but because his lung capacity was only affected by 10%, doctors told him to stay home," he added.

Family claims mouth masks were discouraged at work

In several statements to the media, Doghmi has said that Nahi's manager discouraged him to wear gloves or a facemask, a claim which spokesperson Nathalie Roisin said she was not in a position to confirm in a statement on Monday.

"According to [the manager], there was no reason to wear a mask because [Nahi] was still young and therefore would not be at risk, Doghmi told HLN.

Doghmi said that, following the media coverage of Nahi's death, several supermarket employees reached out to testify of feelings of under protection at work.

"In total, we now have about 27 testimonials that are currently being collected by our lawyers," he said.

In a phone statement, Colruyt spokesperson Hanne Poppe said that the company could not provide any information, citing concern for the privacy of Nahi's family and the active nature of the legal proceedings.

"We remain open to entering into a dialogue," the spokesperson said.

Asked whether Nahi was discouraged to wear a mouth mask and gloves at work, Poppe said that she couldn't provide a comment but said that the company would "take the necessary steps to bring clarity" to the incident.

Poppe added that Colruyt continued to follow the official advice of the government, which she said still indicated that the use of masks was not mandatory.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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