Coronavirus: workers ask 'what is an essential sector?'

Coronavirus: workers ask 'what is an essential sector?'
Credit: Belga

Belgium's Workers' Party (PTB/PVDA) is demanding a revision of the list of essential sectors that was issued by the government in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

According to a press release titled "does the government find weapons more important than health?", published by the PTB on Thursday, the list is "far too wide." According to calculations by the party’s research department, it “now concerns two-thirds of workers,” party member Raoul Hedebouw said.

The list in question is part of a ministerial decree that was published on 18 March in order for the Belgian government to be able to enact the far-reaching measures that have been in place since 18 March at noon. The measures include the fact that only essential businesses are allowed to remain open, and the list in the decree specifies which businesses these are.

The PTB said in the press release that they were shocked that a new ministerial decree, currently in the making, would be expanded and would include the "safety and defence industry."

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In the press release, the PTB pointed out that "companies in sectors recognised as essential do not have to comply with basic health rules, such as social distancing." The party stated that "health should always take precedence over all other considerations" and that "basic health rules should be respected in as many establishments as possible and non-essential sectors should be temporarily closed."

The PTB recently also voiced indignation about Health Minister Maggie De Block's decision to destroy millions of mouth masks that had reached their expiration date, accusing her of "ignoring experts' advice for years," a claim they make based on documents the party allegedly got its hands on.

On Thursday, the PTB was the sole party on the Belgian parliament’s home affairs committee to vote against a bill to grant Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès' government special powers in light of the coronavirus epidemic.

Jason Spinks

The Brussels Times

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