'Not a race': Francophone politicians oppose faster relaxations in Flanders

'Not a race': Francophone politicians oppose faster relaxations in Flanders
Credit: Belga

Several Belgian politicians have condemned a proposal by Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon to relax measures in Flanders if its vaccination rate overtakes the rest of the country.

"If the gap becomes wider, that will be an element that we will have to make decisions about," said Jambon, echoing earlier comments from Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke.

The rest of the country, however, is less convinced with the proposal.

Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort stressed that "vaccination is not a race," adding that the Capital-Region vaccinated a lot of people who work in residential care centres in Brussels but do not live there, for example.

"Solidarity is necessary in these times," Vervoort told Bruzz. "The most important thing is that we vaccinate as many people as possible now, and make sure that our hospitals are not overcrowded."

"Only relaxing the rules in Flanders would be a big draw for the rest of the country, as our Belgian territory is small and the interactions are many," he added.

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As of Monday 26 April, just over 30% of adults in Flanders have received at least one vaccination dose, compared to 22.7% in the Brussels-Capital Region and 29% in Wallonia, according to figures from the Sciensano national health institute.

According to the president of the Brussels regional DéFi party François de Smet, the lower vaccine uptake in Wallonia and Brussels is a real problem, which should not be ignored.

"However, by going all out on this health crisis, nationalism confirms that withdrawal and selfishness are its only projects," he tweeted in response to Jambon's statements. "It is a pity."

Speaking on LN24, the president of the Francophone liberal MR party, Georges-Louis Bouchez, called it "rather regrettable" that Jambon was making the health crisis about the Regions.

"Our country is so small, and the population density is so high" that the same rules should apply throughout the entire territory, as anything else would only "confuse our fellow citizens."

Additionally, while Bouchez does not deny that there are difficulties with vaccination or differences between the regions, he called it "a snail race, without real winners."

Also reacting on Monday, Walloon Minister of Local Government Christophe Collignon told Bel-RTL that Jambon's statements were "reckless" and that this was "not the right perspective."

He also pointed out that Wallonia is currently "doing better with the second dose," with 8.6% of vaccinated people having been fully vaccinated, compared to 8.1% in Flanders and 6.1% in Brussels.

This is a very small country, and many people come into contact with each other a lot, according to Collignon, who stressed that "Belgium is at war with the virus, not with numbers."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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