Flemish government sued over Covid Safe Ticket system

Flemish government sued over Covid Safe Ticket system
Credit: Belga

The Flemish government has been sued by the Ministry of Privacy – an independent privacy watchdog – over the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) system.

The CST proves that an individual has been fully vaccinated, recently tested negative or recovered from the virus in the past six months, and is currently needed to acquire access to many public spaces in Belgium, from bars to gyms. The Ministry of Privacy argued that this is a disproportionate measure using an unethical tool.

“The summons regarding #CovidShitTicket was officially served yesterday!” the organisation announced on its Twitter account on Thursday.

The case will come before the Dutch-speaking Court of First Instance in Brussels on Monday 20 December at 8:45 AM. The government will be represented by Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke.

In one week, the Ministry of Privacy collected more than €40,000 with crowdfunding to challenge the CST. It will ask the court to assess whether the CST is  a necessary measure to reduce the number of infections.

The organisation’s founder Matthias Dobbelaere-Welvaert stressed that this legal action is not about an anti-vaccination campaign, but about “challenging a measure that constitutes a major privacy violation and can potentially cause serious long-term damage in our society.”

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The Ministry of Privacy is also asking whether the government could not have implemented an alternative measure that would be less privacy-invasive and that could have prevented a continued expansion of mandatory use of the CST.

At the start of this month, the Namur’s Court of First Instance ruled in favour of the non-profit organisation ‘Notre bon droit’ (NBD) who challenged the use of the health pass in the region. The Walloon government was ordered to pay a penalty of €5,000 per day as long as it does not stop enforcing its use.

Health pass history

The European Union was the first to introduce a health pass mechanism based on these three elements to facilitate safe travel within the bloc, for which Belgium developed the Covid Safe Ticket system.

This was then also implemented for access to events. On 1 November, the use of the CST was further extended, making it required to enter bars, restaurants and gyms across the country.

This resulted in the organisation announcing that it would be taking the government to the Constitutional Court. ‘The CST is a dangerous tool. It has been carelessly developed, there are important ethical questions, and the Data Protection Authority (GBA) gave negative advice to this government which was completely ignored’, the organisation said on Twitter at the time.

Its expansion into society also resulted in tens of thousands of people taking to the streets of Brussels in protest of the measure.

According to Microbiologist Emmanuel André, the introduction of the CST in Belgium did not necessarily increase the vaccination rate but instead resulted in more coronavirus infections.

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