As the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) has been expanded in Brussels and is set to in Wallonia, federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke has expressed his support for it to be implemented in the workplace.
Belgium is already looking to make vaccination compulsory for healthcare staff, however, a debate that has been described as complicated at best, and one that becomes more divisive on a political level when discussed for all employees. Politically, Vandenbroucke seems to be one of the few advocates for this particular measure.
"What I am about to say is not permitted by our legislation, but I think companies should be able to ask for the CST," he told De Standaard.
With the CST, a person can prove that they have been fully vaccinated, recently tested negative or recovered from the virus in the past half-year.
Since 15 October, this is being used within Brussels’ hospitality industry, sports centres and clubs, among others, and it will be adopted in the same way in Wallonia from 1 November.
Vandenbroucke recognised that expanding the use to companies could be difficult from a legal standpoint, but that it should be asked for, at least, in large commercial centres, where many people gather in what are epidemiologically speaking often risky circumstances.
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"We can do that tomorrow. Just amend the cooperation agreement with the federal states and that's it. But it is not allowed now. There is no political support for it," he said.
Labour Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne is one of the government politicians who is leaning against imposing the use of the CST at work.
"'I agree that CST should be used more broadly, certainly. But to let the employer use CST, that's a different matter. I would be more careful about that," he said, adding that this is a more broad debate about "whether an employer can control his employees or not."
He added that, in the meantime, taking a step back to more frequent and organised telework will be a solution. "We have asked the unions to have a framework ready by the end of the year to put telework on a structural footing. So here too, we are already one step ahead," he said.
Both agreed that making vaccination compulsory for the whole population is no more than a theoretical proposal that cannot be implemented.
"Are we going to throw those who refuse in jail? Are we going to isolate them? Will they have to pay a fine? And can richer people refuse a vaccine in this way while poorer people can't?" asked Vandenbroucke, stressing that the CST is a better way to create safe freedom.
"When we organise freedom, we can make a distinction between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. The latter group should then get themselves tested," he said.