'Surprised': Verlinden hits back at De Wever's criticism of coronavirus rules

'Surprised': Verlinden hits back at De Wever's criticism of coronavirus rules
Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden. Credit: Belga

Belgium's Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden was "surprised" by the harsh criticism of the federal coronavirus measures from Flemish right-wing N-VA party president and Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever.

On Thursday morning, De Wever called out "major inconsistencies" in the latest Ministerial Decree (which gives the coronavirus measures legal basis) drafted and published by Verlinden's offices.

In response, Verlinden pointed out that the Flemish government, represented at the Consultative Committees by Minister-President Jan Jambon of De Wever's N-VA party, at no point opposed the proposed measures, and never protested against the draft Ministerial Decree either.

In a radio interview, De Wever said that every Ministerial Decree has been full of "things that were not intended, things that cannot be applied, loopholes and inconsistencies."

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He was referring to "creative organisers" who are not following the spirit of the law, but are using a loophole by organising private parties in nightclubs, allowing them to reopen one month ahead of the planned 1 October restart.

Verlinden, in turn, emphasised that the Ministerial Decree makes a clear distinction between gatherings that anyone can attend and a private party: the latter works with invitations and you know who will be present.

"It is obviously not up to the Interior Affairs Minister to decide where these people are invited and who is invited and who is not, nor by what means exactly it should be sent to those invited," she said. "That is precisely what its private nature is all about."

Verlinden also stressed that the population must remain vigilant for a new wave, despite the strong results of the vaccination campaign in Belgium, "except for a few cities such as Brussels and Antwerp."

Additionally, she underlined that De Wever, as the mayor of Antwerp, can take stricter measures for his municipality or city if he considers it necessary in the interest of public health.

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