Belgium in Brief: Did Covid-19 measures violate fundamental rights?

Belgium in Brief: Did Covid-19 measures violate fundamental rights?
Credit: Belga

Three years ago, the Belgian authorities declared the first Covid-19 lockdown in the country. Shops, bars and even schools closed, people needed a valid reason to be outside and employees were ordered to work from home.

The regular changes to the rules were nearly always headline news and very regularly hotly debated. But now, the Human Rights League NGO has concluded that Belgium's measures were not only unenjoyable, but they also sometimes violated the fundamental rights of the population.

While the NGO stressed that it was "logical" that the country did not immediately have its affairs in order – especially considering the fact that, after the May 2019 elections, Belgium was being run by Wilmès interim government of current affairs at the time of the outbreak – and had to rely on emergency Ministerial Decrees, but denounced that it took over a year to implement a Pandemic Act.

People needed to be protected from the virus and measures were needed for that, "but those measures violated a whole range of fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of movement, the right to association, education, among others," the NGO explained. "The balance was lost."

As Belgium now has the Pandemic Act ready, the NGO and the authorities are reassured that things will go more smoothly in case a future crisis disrupts all of society again.

Still, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke requested an independent "very critical" evaluation of Belgium's Covid-19 policy – that he was partially responsible for – by the OECD international think tank. "Let the criticism come, I want us to be ready for next crises."

What do you think? How did Belgium handle the pandemic? Let @Maajtee know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your coffee break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

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