Several members of Belgium's political establishment have spoken out against relaxed measures for the vaccinated, calling for a united mentality as the country fights the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke officially requested advice from the GEMS experts regarding certain freedoms for vaccinated people in Belgium, prompting a number of politicians to speak out against the possibility.
Vandenbroucke's request followed the publication of a report by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which stated that “fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing face masks or physical distancing.”
According to the president of the Flemish liberal Open Vld party Egbert Lachaert, however, it is "not a good idea" to grant certain rights to people based on whether or not they have been vaccinated while everyone is waiting for their jab.
Terwijl iedereen geduldig op vaccinatie wacht, is het geen goed idee rechten toe te kennen op basis van al dan niet al gevaccineerd zijn.We’re in this together. We moeten er ook weer samen uit. Iedereen moet geleidelijk vanaf mei weer van meer vrijheid kunnen proeven. — Egbert Lachaert (@egbertlachaert) April 6, 2021
"We're in this together. We also have to get out of this again together," he tweeted. "Everyone must gradually be able to taste more freedom again from May."
President of the Green party Meyrem Almaci agreed, stating that "vaccination privileges undermine solidarity and therefore need to be addressed very cautiously," and Joachim Coens of the Christen democrats CD&V added that there should be "no vaccine privileges as long as not everyone got the chance."
However, Vandenbroucke's cabinet strongly disagrees with the word "vaccination privilege," it told Het Nieuwsblad. "For example, we are never going to allow only vaccinated people into bars."
"We want to zoom in on specific groups," they added. "Can you allow more in residential care centres? And can the vaccinated over-65s see their grandchildren again?"
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According to Peter De Roover, group leader of the Flemish right-wing N-VA party in the Chamber, there is no need for "a dilemma" about granting vaccinated people privileges.
"The day that the most vulnerable people (over-65s, and people with underlying conditions) are vaccinated, society should open up for everyone at once, please," he said on Twitter.
According to Belgium's Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon, however, "you cannot pretend the issue does not exist."
Over the coming days, the GEMS coronavirus expert group will analyse the relationship between the vaccination campaign, the testing strategy, and ethical aspects, reports De Morgen.
"It will be important to include ethical, legal, sociological and motivational angles in addition to epidemiological arguments," he said. "Crucial in this is the challenge of maintaining the reality in the field, but also the support among the population."
"The vaccination campaign may last until September, but in the meantime, a very large group of people will already have been vaccinated," Facon added. "What do we do for them? We simply cannot avoid this debate."
The Brussels Times