The Flemish government has declared a state of civil emergency enabling it to urgently boost regional health care capacities, as the sector buckles under the unrelenting advance of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state of civil emergency, already declared in the spring, will enable the Dutch-speaking region to fast-track measures of support for health care workers on the front line, namely through the rapid creation of new health infrastructures.
“The capacity of hospitals, care facilities and laboratories is under great pressure and the demand for additional facilities threatens to escalate,” Flanders’ regional minister in charge of justice, Zuhal Demir, said.
Demir also said that it was “essential” to allow for the creation of “additional facilities for the rapid production of medicines, vaccines and essential medical equipment,” De Morgen reports.
Declaring the state of emergency will allow the regional government to green-light the construction or installation of new health care facilities, such as field hospitals, triage centres or ad-hoc laboratories. It will also allow for the requisitioning of unused buildings or property if necessary.
The move comes as a Consultative Committee meeting gathers federal and regional in Brussels under mounting pressure to take drastic steps to contain the second wave of the pandemic, which threatens to overwhelm the country’s health care system.
Mesures ranging from restricting non-essential movements to a return to lockdown are on the table, with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo under pressure to get the country’s warring regions to agree on a common, nationwide strategy.
Flemish regional leaders were hit with harsh criticism throughout the week for postponing the adoption of stricter coronavirus measures, even as Brussels and Wallonia both tightened the rules imposed by the federal government.
By next Monday, all hospitals in the country have been ordered to move into the final phase of a hospital management plan.
But as coronavirus patients continue to pour in, some hospitals have already said that a new plan is necessary as conditions on the ground are set to surpass the current strategy’s worst-case scenario.