‘Not a witch hunt’: municipalities can now check if people are quarantining
Tuesday, 12 January 2021
From today, municipalities and cities will know who of its inhabitants has to quarantine after travelling so they can carry out checks, but mayors stated they will not be organising a witch hunt.
Municipalities will now receive information about all the returned travellers in their territory, because of a decree approved in mid-December.
During the Consultative Committee in which Belgium tightened the rules for incoming travellers, the different Regional Minister-Presidents announced that they would adopt this decree to allow better monitoring of the quarantine measures, but it was only put into practice today.
In Roeselare, people already were actively following up on the quarantine measures, but mayor Kris Declercq wants clear legal criteria “so as not to turn this into a witch hunt.”
“We have been working with ‘quarantine coaches’ since last year to follow up on people in a targeted way,” he told VRT. “But even in that case, it is not the intention that a mayor sends out the police just like that.”
He will work out a number of criteria with the different municipalities in the central region of the West-Flanders province and the police zone, “to avoid ending up in a police regime,” Declercq said.
In the city of Aalst, mayor Christophe D’Haese guaranteed that there would not be a manhunt for people who are not quarantining while they should, “but people with antisocial behaviour do risk being fined if they do not comply with the quarantine obligation.”
“We will handle the data we receive from the government properly,” he said. “We will do everything possible to respect privacy.”
In the Brussels-Capital Region, the local authorities are waiting for federal guidelines before starting to use the data to carry out checks.
Additionally, municipalities do not get automatic access to the data of inhabitants who have to go into quarantine, according to the Flemish Association of Cities and Municipalities (VVSG).
“The municipalities that want to join this system will first agree on a protocol with the Agency for Care and Health before the data can be passed on,” spokesperson Nathalie Debast said on Flemish radio on Tuesday
In any case, it is not the intention to organise a witch hunt for people in quarantine, Debast stressed as well.
“In many municipalities, quarantining people are already being contacted to ask how they are doing and if they need help,” she said. “This now acts as a big stick for people who do not take their responsibility.”