Brussels, get ready for the fourth wave!

27 August 2021

Barely 51% of Brussels residents have received their first vaccine injection. Experts expect a peak of infections in early October. In the meantime, Brussels Health Minister Maron is improvising with vaccinations in shops such as Primark and Action. As far as Brussels MP Gilles Verstraeten is concerned, it is clear: “The minister has lost sight of things”.

On Friday afternoon, the Brussels Parliament met urgently to question Minister Maron about the low vaccination rate in the capital. The situation is dramatic: barely 51% of Brussels residents have received their first injection. This means that Brussels has the lowest vaccination rate in Western Europe. Despite the urgency and severity of the problem, Minister Maron made a mere two hours available to address parliament.

Brussels Minister Maron has lost sight of things

Minister Maron wants to raise the vaccination rate to 65% by the end of October with a kind of “offensive”. Brussels residents can now go to shops, businesses and even building sites for a vaccine injection, provided that at least 10 people sign up in advance. According to Gilles Verstraeten, Minister Maron lacks an efficient and sustained strategy. “Vaccinating people in Primark and Action, you wouldn’t even think it possible. It is clear that the Minister has lost sight of things and is improvising.”

Unwilling Brussels residents need to be convinced individually

Gilles Verstraeten is repeating his call to the government to proactively approach all non-vaccinated Brussels residents instead of waiting for them to take the step themselves. “The government still presumes too much that the problem is the accessibility of the vaccination, rather than that many people just don’t want the vaccine at this time and need to be convinced individually through all possible channels. The Brussels population is being infected with bad information without being individually vaccinated with the correct information. The government says it will work on this, but it is still unclear how. In any case, it is far too late. This is how they have been working in Antwerp since October 2020,” Gilles Verstraeten says.

The peak of infections expected in early October

Time is running out because experts expect a fourth wave in Brussels with a peak of infections at the beginning of October. In the meantime, many questions remain unanswered. “For example, we still do not have an overview of the actions undertaken by both the Region and the nineteen municipalities to increase the vaccination rate. The feeling prevails that initiatives have been taken here and there for months now without any form of cooperation or harmonisation.”

No answer to the question about vaccination figures for healthcare staff

Gilles Verstraeten is also extremely concerned about the fact that we still do not know how many staff members of Brussels residential care centres and other care institutions have not been vaccinated. “In Flanders, the residential care centres have released these figures voluntarily, but in Brussels, Iriscare stubbornly refuses to do so. So I requested the figures through parliament in July, but have not yet received a reply.”

Uncertainty about the enforcement of quarantine by returning travellers

At the same time, there remains a lot of uncertainty about the enforcement of the current rules. “We do not know whether the monitoring of compliance with the quarantine rules for returning travellers by the municipalities and the police is effective. The Brussels government has made this de facto impossible through a legal framework, for which we are now paying the price. This while one in three Brussels residents returning from a red zone tests positive.”

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