Police from an entire police zone in Flemish Brabant are in quarantine with their families following an outbreak of Covid-19.
The quarantine affects all staff members, police and civilian, in the Zennevallei zone, which covers Beersel, Halle and Sint-Pieters-Leeuw.
“In recent days, the Zennevallei police zone has lost several employees,” the zone said in a statement.
“The zone decided to err on the safe side and test all employees. Everything now points to an outbreak of a possible new variant of the coronavirus.”
All police stations in the zone – the second-largest in the province after Leuven, covering a population of about 100,000 – are now closed, and police from surrounding zones will step in to concentrate only on the most important emergencies.
“Naturally, our mission is and remains to help people in need. Our attention will therefore concentrate on urgent emergency calls,” a spokesperson said.
“Everyone will be helped. People in need of assistance can still contact the emergency number 101.”
While the local police are out of action awaiting testing, the zone will be covered by front-line officers, while the Flemish Agency for Care and Health and local councils monitor the situation from nearby.
According to zone police chief Mark Crispel, the disease struck rapidly.
“Some officers were perfectly healthy on Tuesday and became ill on Thursday. In recent months we have had to deal with infections. For example, several people from our investigation department became infected in November and we were always on our guard when someone tested positive,” he said.
“This time there was really no stopping it.”
The conformed infections so far mainly concern intervention teams and so-called rapid response teams that are on the road every day.
“They take all possible precautions, but you can never rule it out,” Crispel said. “Our people come into contact with residents on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there is always a risk. That has become clear once again.”