Belgium’s pandemic law, which should provide an additional legal basis to take far-reaching measures in health crises, was published in the Belgian Official Journal on Friday.
The law, proposed by Home Affairs minister Annelies Verlinden, was given the green light by the federal parliament in July and replaces the current method of using ministerial decrees when it comes to imposing measures such as lockdowns and travel bans.
“The further epidemiological evolution will determine whether the pandemic law will still be used during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Verlinden said in a press release.
“Specifically, it will have to be analysed whether the criteria for an epidemic emergency as set out in the pandemic law have been met. After all, thanks to the hopeful results of the vaccination campaign, we can move from crisis management to risk management,” she added.
As the law has now officially been published, the federal government has 31 working days to activate it in the context of the current crisis, if it wished to do so.
Even if the law is not implemented during the coronavirus crisis, Verlinden stressed that “with this pandemic law we have prepared for the future.”
The original method to implement far-reaching measures had previously been criticised for being undemocratic and even resulted in a Brussels court ordering the Belgian State to lift “all coronavirus measures,” arguing the legal basis for them was insufficient.
The piece of legislature means that declaring an epidemiological emergency would have to be made by royal decree, after which parliament would have 15 days to discuss it, rather than just two to five days, as is currently the case.
This should allow for a more thorough debate on the decisions that are up for discussion. Only after this process can the government take a series of measures to control the crisis.
Following extensive discussion over the preliminary draft and the draft itself, the proposal for the pandemic bill was ready for a vote in Parliament in May this year. However, the final vote in Parliament was delayed due to the opposition tabling amendments and requesting the opinion of the Council of State.