Belgium’s King Philippe and all party presidents will get tested for coronavirus
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Belgium’s King Philippe and all party presidents will get tested for coronavirus

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All Belgian party presidents and King Philippe are set to get a coronavirus test after one of two royal appointees negotiating for a new federal government tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

The Flemish liberal party Open Vld said on Tuesday that its president, royal appointee Egbert Lachaert had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

As one of two party leaders appointed by King Philippe to lead talks with a view of forming a new federal government, Lachaert has been in contact with top party officials as well as with the Belgian monarch.

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Open Vld spokesperson Thomas Vanwing confirmed reports that all party leaders would be getting a coronavirus test and that work would continue via video conference for the time being.

“All presidents and their collaborators will be tested,” Vanwing said in a text message, adding: “Everybody will respect the quarantine rules.”

A spokesperson for the royal palace also confirmed that King Philippe had been tested, and said that as of Wednesday morning his results were not known yet.

The spokesperson also said that, during the royal meetings held with the government formation appointees, all social distancing recommendations and health guidelines had been followed.

Any potential tests of other members of the Belgian royal family would be dependent on the results of the king, the spokesperson added.

Moments after the party announced Lachaert’s test results, fellow royal appointee Conner Rousseau rushed to publicly announce he had been tested and was negative, both via Twitter as well as with a video statement shared via public broadcaster VRT.

While Rousseau said on Twitter that he planned to be retested by the end of the week, he also said that “in the meantime,” he could continue working as usual, “with all the precautions,” prompting a response from health institute Sciensano’s Steven Van Gucht, who reminded him that a test taken to soon could be inaccurate.

“In the first days, the virus cannot be detected in the body,” Van Gucht told health publication Le Specialiste. “This is why we insist that a negative test cannot replace a quarantine.”

News that Lachaert is positive for coronavirus comes at a crucial time during the protracted talks to give Belgians a new federal government, and risk stalling efforts by parties to finally clinch a coalition deal ahead of 17 September deadline, when the current government’s special powers are set to expire.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times