Preparations are underway to expand the requirement for Belgium's Covid pass (the Covid Safe Ticket) in the Brussels-Capital Region to more situations than only events, according to Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden.
While Verlinden is not in favour of the generalised use of the Covid pass where it is not necessary, things are different in areas where the vaccination rate is not as high, she said in 'De Afspraak' on Flemish television.
"Suppose we go to an autumn where a variant emerges that makes things difficult for us or perhaps defeats the vaccines," Verlinden said. "We do need to be prepared."
Verlinden's aim is to avoid another lockdown at all costs. To this end, she believes that a generalised use of the Covid pass could be effective.
"We have that tool now, but we have to use it in a measured way. So we have to prepare," Verlinden said. "Preparations are currently being made to allow Brussels to use the Covid pass more widely."
Last week, Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort also spoke out in favour of requiring the Covid Safe Ticket in more situations, similar to how it is in France, he said on VTM News.
For those who are vaccinated, this would mean that they simply show the QR code proving their vaccinations when they want to enter a bar or restaurant. But non-vaccinated people would have to get tested regularly, as a negative result is only valid for one (self-test) or two days (PCR test).
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Brussels would not be the first to introduce such an obligation, as France and Italy already require a Covid pass to enter restaurants or bars.
In France, where the general population was hesitant to get vaccinated, the announcement by French President Emmanuel Macron that the 'pass sanitaire' (health pass) would be mandatory to enter bars, restaurants and museums resulted in a surge in vaccination appointments as almost a million first shots were booked the day after the speech.
Last week, biostatistician Geert Molenberghs stated that while it is "first and foremost a political debate," he also pointed out that countries like France saw their vaccination rate rise sharply since the introduction of the health pass, including in difficult regions.
It would have a “double positive effect,” according to Molenberghs, as it would not only push up the vaccination rate but also ensure that the activities that can take place are a lot safer.
"The proposal will be on the table of the next Consultative Committee," an Interior Affairs spokesperson confirmed in Het Nieuwsblad. "The minister wanted to give a signal to the Brussels government that work on it is being done."
In the meantime, the mayors of the Flemish municipalities on Brussels's border are worried that people will just cross into Flanders once the Capital-Region starts requiring the pass for bars and restaurants.
"If Ms Verlinden can make extra rules for Brussels, I am asking to be allowed to apply them too," Vilvoorde mayor Hans Bonte told Het Nieuwsblad, adding that the municipality's vaccination rate is similar to that of Brussels.
Yet other municipalities on the border - such as Wemmel, Dilbeek and Grimbergen - all stated that while they will intervene if necessary, they are not expecting major problems.
"Currently, the Covid Safe Ticket is unfortunately the only way to give the people of Brussels more freedom," said Flemish Minister for Brussels Benjamin Dalle on Twitter. "Our capital city should also be able to open up again."
The next Consultative Committee will take place on Friday 17 September, where the use of the Covid Safe Ticket for anything other than events will be discussed.