BRUSSELS (Brussels Morning) – The pandemic law was necessary because there had been no legal basis for the face mask requirement since the beginning of March. The ordinance gives the government wide-ranging powers to fight the pandemic in Brussels. But health Minister Alain Maron (Ecolo) assures that it is not the intention to be stricter than necessary.
The vote on the Brussels pandemic law was not without a struggle. Health Minister Maron wanted to have it approved urgently last week, but parliament asked for more time because the ordinance allows far-reaching restrictions in public life and affects the constitutional freedoms of Brussels residents.
On Wednesday, the Health Committee approved the ordinance majority against opposition.
According to Minister Maron, the fear of a curtailment of freedoms is unjustified. “There is a misconception about the ordinance. It is limited to the corona pandemic.” As soon as the World Health Organisation declares that the corona pandemic is over, the application of the law also stops.
According to Maron, it is not the intention at all to take strict measures. “We take measures that are necessary but that affect the freedoms as little as possible. That’s the general rule. Look at the Covid Safe Ticket. As soon as it was no longer necessary, we abolished it.”
There was dissatisfaction with the majority and the opposition because this threatens to sideline parliament. The Brussels government is given very broad powers to act if the corona figures deteriorate again. It can impose a ban on gatherings or curfews, close schools, restrict access to catering, etcetera. And all this without the involvement of parliament.
Maron understood that argument, but believes that in a federal country only a government can make decisions that are coherent with the measures in the rest of the country. “Who is on the Consultation Committee and in the Interministerial Conference on Health? The government anyway, not the parliament.”
In order to involve parliament more, the majority (socialists, green parties, Défi and Open VLD) has strengthened parliamentary control over the measures through amendments.
For example, the government must communicate every month the health indicators (hospital figures, infections, etc.) on which the government bases itself to take possible measures. The decisions themselves that are taken must also be submitted to parliament.
The measures must also be evaluated every three months, after which a parliamentary debate can follow. The parliament wants to prevent the government from taking too speedy measures that go against civil liberties.
The opposition parties cannot accept that. N-VA MP Gilles Verstraeten called the amendments “circus content” and called the ordinance “a blank check to the government.”
On Friday, the Brussels parliament will meet in an emergency session to definitively approve the ordinance.
This will once again provide a legal basis for the face mask obligation in public transport. It has been legally shaky since Belgium left the federal phase on March 11. Then it turned out that Brussels did not have a suitable pandemic law to enforce the face mask obligation on public transport.
It should therefore be there on Friday, after which the government can formally announce the face mask obligation on public transport and in healthcare. In the medium term, a full-fledged pandemic law must be introduced, so that Brussels is better prepared for global epidemics, apart from corona.