Thursday, 25 March 2021
In response to the growing criticism of the federal opposition parties, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo defended the Consultative Committee’s decision to reverse previous relaxations and implement stricter rules.
Referring to the vocal criticism of Wednesday’s decisions in the Chamber by the Flemish opposition parties, in particular, De Croo underlined that “all the governments in the country” agreed to the measures.
“I have heard all the minister-presidents say that the decisions were necessary and defend the decisions, and that is how it should be,” he added. “The only way forward is to defend them together.”
Most of the criticism centred around the fact that with the “Easter pause” measures, De Croo came back on a promise he made in January: that once hairdressers could reopen, they should stay open.
“However, the pandemic does not tolerate politics. That pandemic needs crisis management and agility, and levelheadedness,” he said. “That means making adjustments as the situation changes, and putting plans back on the shelf.”
“I am not ashamed to say that I make immediate adjustments when our population is in danger. That is what the people expect of us,” De Croo added. “And yes, that is sometimes a lesson in humility, for all of us, but I will do what is necessary to protect the population.”
Without yesterday’s additional decisions, Belgium would no longer have to discuss vaccination centres, but “triage centres in hospitals” where doctors would have to choose which patients could still be admitted, according to him.
He said that he realised that it is “tough” for the population that the measures had to be tightened, instead of relaxed – as was hoped for with the announcement of the government’s “outdoor plan” in early March.
“On Monday and Tuesday, it was clear that the situation was worsening at an accelerated pace,” said De Croo. “That is why I asked for a Consultative Committee meeting as soon as possible.”
He stressed that he also asked for new advice from the GEMS expert group to be able to halt the continuing linear increase. “Everyone agreed that a cooling-off period was needed, at all levels of society.”
“Of course, this comes at a time when we were hoping for different decisions,” De Croo said. “It is a disappointment. But this disenchantment does not only exist in our country.”
Limiting social contacts is the only solution to stop the accelerated rise in hospital admissions, according to De Croo. “Everywhere, and as much as possible, whether at work, in shops or schools. We will be able to break the third wave together.”
Belgium’s new rules will take effect on Saturday, and can be found here.
The Brussels Times