Belgium provisionally approves ‘contact tracing’ bill
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
On Tuesday, the Health and Equal Opportunities Committee of the House provisionally approved a bill, which allows the regions to process Sciensano’s data of people who could be infected with the coronavirus.
At the request of the Flemish rightwing N-VA party, a vote after a second reading of the bill will be necessary.
The bill would allow the cooperation agreement of 25 August between the Federal State, the Flemish Community, the Walloon Region, the German-speaking Community and the Joint Community Commission to enter into force.
The agreement provides for the joint processing of data by national research institute Sciensano and the contact centres designated by the competent federated entities or by the competent agencies, by the hygiene inspection services and by mobile teams in the context of contact tracing follow-up with people assumed to be infected with the coronavirus.
The bill also describes the purpose of digital contact tracing applications, but those must comply with the principles of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and can only be installed on a voluntary basis.
Certain data, which will be anonymised or pseudonymised, may also be used for research into the evolution of the epidemic. As soon as the Royal Decree signifying the end of the epidemic will be published, data collection will no longer be carried out.
The agreement, which has to replace the Royal Decrees of special powers issued last spring, must be validated by the federal and federated entities’ parliaments. So far, only the Walloon parliament has approved it in committee.
“We still don’t know whether all this is in order at the constitutional level,” said N-VA MP Frieda Gijbels. The party points to the lack of clarity regarding the tasks assigned to the inspection services, mobile teams or contact centres, which are competences managed by the federated entities.