No Belgian 'Covid pass' before everyone is vaccinated, says Van Ranst

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Introducing a Belgian 'Covid pass' to allow people entrance to businesses like restaurants or cinemas is not a good idea until everyone has had the chance to get vaccinated, according to virologist Marc Van Ranst.

As the European Parliament agreed on the "Covid-19 certificate" to reaffirm the right to free movement in the EU during the pandemic on Thursday, some countries are looking into also using this pass for more freedoms within a country.

"I am not in favour of such a system until the whole population has had the opportunity to be vaccinated, or to change their decision (if it was negative first)," Van Ranst, who is a member of the GEMS expert group advising the government, told La Libre.

"As soon as everyone has had the opportunity to change their mind, we can implement it," he said.

"The European pass will be put in place to go on holiday, and to take the plane," Van Ranst said, adding that "the other European countries have asked for it."

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Currently, such a 'corona pass' is already in use in Denmark, where it shows that someone has either been fully vaccinated, has tested negative in the previous 72 hours, or has tested positive two to 12 weeks earlier, indicating immunity to the virus.

"We have to wait for the GEMS report to know what will happen at the Belgian level, and what the possibilities will be for the vaccinated people," Van Ranst added.

According to him, this remains a matter of political decisions. "As soon as we have very low infection figures thanks to vaccination, we will be able to reopen anything in a safe environment anyway."

Until then, however, Van Ranst stressed the importance of solidarity between those who are vaccinated and those who aren't yet.

In early April, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke asked for advice from the GEMS experts about possible relaxations for people who have already been vaccinated, prompting a number of politicians to immediately speak out against the possibility.

"We have to do this in solidarity. As long as everyone has not received a vaccine, it will not be accepted by the population to make distinctions," Van Ranst said, referring to older (vaccinated) people organising parties or attending festivals, while younger people cannot.

"The GEMS experts agree on this point," he said, conceding that the situation is a bit different in nursing homes, where rules will be slightly relaxed from 8 May.

Due to the vulnerable population, rules in residential care centres were stricter than in the rest of society, but will now be aligned more with the latest measures announced by the authorities.

"[Residents and staff of care centres] are all vaccinated, but they do not have a 'corona pass', or more freedoms than others for that matter," Van Ranst added.

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