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Belgium does not introduce ‘student bubbles’ after all

Credit: Belga

Despite many calls for perspective from students, Belgium’s Consultative Committee on Friday did not announce the requested measure making it possible for students to create their own student ‘kot’ housing bubbles.

This measure would have allowed students, who live together away from home in the city or town where they are studying, to form their own bubble, allowing them to dispose of rules such as wearing masks in common areas and keeping distance indoors.

If implemented, this rule would have allowed students living in a shared student residence, from two or four to up to 200 (Belgian student ‘kot’ housing often sees students share with a large number of other people), to create their own kind of “household” bubble to have close contact with.

Following the press conference, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo explained that no decision had been taken about such a measure, as the authorities asked the experts to draw up a roadmap on how to handle the pandemic.

“We need that roadmap first, before we start reacting to these kinds of proposals,” he told VTM News. “The subject was not even discussed.”

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Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts, who had been pushing for this change after receiving a lot of criticism from Belgian students that they have been forgotten by all these policies, does not understand why such a bubble was not possible, he told Het Laatste Nieuws after the Committee.

“We had an agreement between all the country’s Communities about the ‘kot’ bubble, and the virologists were in agreement as well,” Weyts said. “This could have offered a positive perspective to some of the students, who are suffering from months of social isolation. But the Ministerial Decree has to be adapted, so we cannot decide this on our own.”

However, most virologists were in favour of such a bubble, virologist Marc Van Ranst told VTM News, adding that he regrets no decision on this was taken.

“It could have offered some perspective for the students,” Van Ranst said. “But you cannot do everything at once. We have already opened the hairdressers, and then you kind of rule out some other possible relaxations.”

Lauren Walker & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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