'Disgrace': Belgium criticised after court order to lift all Covid measures

'Disgrace': Belgium criticised after court order to lift all Covid measures
N-VA group leader, Peter De Roover, in the Chamber. Credit: Belga

The recent verdict of a Brussels court - which ordered Belgium to lift all its coronavirus measures within 30 days - is a "disgrace for the government," according to the Flemish right-wing N-VA party.

The ruling was "the accident waiting to happen for which the government closed its eyes," said N-VA group leader Peter De Roover in the Chamber on Wednesday afternoon, calling it "a disgrace to the government."

Earlier on Wednesday, a court ordered the Belgian State to lift "all coronavirus measures” within 30 days, as it considers the legal basis for them insufficient.

"This government has played with fire in implementing its coronavirus measures and it was warned about it, pretty much week after week in parliament," De Roover said.

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"Today, what I have been warning about for months is happening," he added. "This government took enormous risks in opting for Ministerial Decrees in implementing freedom-restricting measures in its coronavirus policy. That warning, however, was ignored."

The judge gave the Belgian State 30 days to provide a sound legal basis, or face a penalty of €5,000 per day that this period is exceeded, with a maximum limit of €200,000.

"Prime Minister De Croo declared on 31 January in 'De Zevende Dag' (Flemish television programme) that he did not want to add an additional uncertainty, especially a legal one," De Roover said. "How sour those words sound today."

He added that, by providing this 30-day period, "it is the judge who saves the government from total chaos, but the political damage is huge."

Group leader of the other party in the opposition, the far-right Vlaams Belang, Barbara Pas also called the judgement "an unbelievable embarrassment for the government," and added that she fears that the legal basis will now be rushed.

"I hope that the judgement will not be an argument for approving the pandemic law too quickly because there is still a lot of work to be done," she added.

Additionally, Belgium's pandemic law is currently in the works, and is supposed to provide “a permanent legal basis, for taking this kind of restrictive measures during a pandemic.”

The country's system of implementing the coronavirus measures using Ministerial Decrees, which means without any input from parliament, has been criticised several times before.

Appealing against the court ruling is still possible, and the current coronavirus measures will not change for the time being. The verdict is currently being studied by the office of Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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