Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne wants prison personnel to be vaccinated as a priority, following the death of a staff member in a Belgian prison earlier this week.
On Thursday, news broke that a 35-year-old staff member of the Ghent prison died the day before, as a result of a coronavirus infection.
According to the socialist trade union ACOD, she contracted the infection at her work in prison, and handed in a strike notice, making it clear that they demand that guards, as well as detainees, will be vaccinated as a matter of priority.
On Friday, Van Quickenborne said that he understands the request, and is now asking the health authorities for priority vaccination of prison staff.
"In the first and second wave, the situation in the prisons was relatively under control," he said. "In the third wave, however, there are a lot of outbreaks. The health of the staff is at stake, so it is time to vaccinate."
Over the past months, several prisons in Belgium, such as those of Hasselt, Dendermonde and Namur, have dealt with Covid-19 outbreaks, causing wings or even the entire prison to go into lockdown.
According to Van Quickenborne, a prison is a collectivity, meaning that a lot of people live very close together, which makes it fundamentally different from other circumstances.
The prison system, too, is insisting that both staff and prisoners are vaccinated as soon as possible. The issue will be discussed at the interministerial meeting between the Ministers of Public Health on Monday.
The Brussels Times