Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever is not ruling out additional measures in his city, now that the Consultative Committee lifted the federal face mask obligation in many places from 1 October.
Masks will remain mandatory in the Brussels-Capital Region due to its low vaccination rate, but in Antwerp, where the coverage is lower than in the rest of Flanders, the authorities will have to monitor the situation to see what is needed, says De Wever.
“We will have to see how it evolves,” he said on Flemish radio on Saturday. “We are going to reach far above an 80% vaccination rate among adults.”
“Of course, we have a very young population, 15% are under 12 years of age and are not vaccinated. We have to take that into account as well,” De Wever said.
“I realise that in some neighbourhoods and communities, the vaccination coverage is not so good,” he added. “It may well be that in the coming weeks and months, we will see problems here and there, for example in schools. I am not ruling out stricter rules.”
However, that does not have to be “a showstopper” for the entire Antwerp population or that everyone has to undergo restrictions, according to De Wever.
“I have never been a big believer in measures at the district level, it is not practical and it does not serve anything,” he said. “If measures are still needed, we will see at what level we should take them. I will then contact the Flemish government, and the governor.”
Currently, Belgium is still in the federal phase of crisis management, but that could end at the end of October. From then on, the mayors or the governors are the ones making the decisions again.
However, the system of governors each deciding for their own province is outdated, according to De Wever, who believes that giving the power to all the different mayors is even more difficult.
There is no framework for dealing with an emergency at the Flemish level, “and taking measures and managing them at a relevant level does seem to me to be necessary,” he said. “If there is a national crisis, Flanders should also be able to do the coordination in its own region or community.”