What’s on the agenda of Belgium’s Consultative Committee today?

What’s on the agenda of Belgium’s Consultative Committee today?
Credit: Belga

Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet this afternoon, two days earlier than initially planned, to discuss measures to halt the rapid rise of the coronavirus figures in the country.

The Committee will meet from 2:30 PM and will be followed by a press conference, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

“It is going very fast in the hospitals,” said Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke in the Chamber on Tuesday. “Strict measures will have to be taken in all sectors, and they will have to be enforced strictly.”

One of the most important decisions on the table will be the one to make teleworking mandatory again. While the leaked GEMS report showed that experts advise a full-time obligation until the Christmas holidays, the Federal Government proposed a slightly toned-down four days a week.

For the Flemish network of companies Voka, however, a four-day obligation to work from home is still “disproportionate and unacceptable,” with managing director Hans Maertens even urging the Flemish Government to “stop this” at Wednesday’s meeting.

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It is as good as certain that sectors will not be closed – like the nightlife sector, as advised by the GEMS experts – De Croo said on Tuesday afternoon, but extra restrictions to make sure it is safe, like additional tests on top of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) at the entrance, are an option.

In any case, a scenario like the short partial lockdown in the Netherlands remains out of the question, stressed both De Croo and Vandenbroucke.

Making vaccination mandatory for the entire population instead of just the healthcare workers, on the other hand, could be one of the measures on the table.

While local media report that most political parties are against such an obligation, Vandenbroucke already said he was “in favour” and Vice Prime Minister Petra De Sutter also stated that it would be better to make it mandatory for everyone, instead of excluding non-vaccinated residents.

Another measure on the table will be the expansion of the face mask obligation for children, starting with pupils from 9 years old.

Experts believe that the virus is transmitted particularly among the (unvaccinated) youngest and that masks can help to create a barrier, but the Flemish Government and the Francophone socialist PS party strongly oppose the measure for children under 12 years old.

In addition to vaccination, the most important way to keep the situation under control throughout the winter is by having stable measures, said microbiologist Herman Goossens.

“We are now in the fourth wave, but it will not be the last,” he told VRT. “There will be a fifth and a sixth wave. Vaccination will be important, as will steadfast, long-term measures. Absolutely.”

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