Politics

The Brussels succession of foreign travelers is bogged down in war between the region and the municipalities

The number of infections is rising sharply in Brussels, an effect of ‘returnees’ from abroad. But it is now rumbling about the follow-up of those travelers from abroad. The MR, in opposition in the Brussels Region, complains that its mayors do not receive the lists from the Brussels Region. There, the flamboyant Alain Maron (Ecolo) makes it beautiful again: he admits that he does not provide the lists, but states that the follow-up is done by his services. Only if people do not follow the guidelines is it up to the mayors. And that has never been necessary, according to Maron.

In the news: A wave of reports about the ‘new’ variants of COVID.

The details: The advance of a ‘South African’ and ‘British’ variant is seized by the ‘experts’ to again advocate stricter measures.

  • This morning there was a health consultation in Brussels about the corona level. That is necessary because the numbers are not good, but especially because it crackles politically.
  • After all, things are not going in the right direction with the figures in Belgium. They are now on average at 2,083 new infections per day, an increase of 28 percent. The good news is that much more has been tested: an average of 43,700 tests daily, and the positivity rate is now much lower. That ticks off at 5.4 percent.
  • But the problem child of the moment is the capital: the figures in Brussels have increased enormously. Last week, the infections there jumped by 94 percent. This was mainly due to returning travelers, because 70 percent of all people who had traveled abroad live in that Brussels Region.
  • Especially in the richer municipalities in the south of the capital, such as Ixelles, Saint-Gilles and Etterbeek, the figures suddenly climbed sharply. In Etterbeek, more than 300 infections per 100,000 inhabitants were affected.
  • For several days now, the mayor of the latter municipality, Vincent De Wolf (MR), has been sounding the alarm. Because he gets no information whatsoever from the Brussels Region about those persons.
  • The Brussels Regional Health Inspectorate has the data of everyone who filled in their PLF forms when he or she returned from abroad, all people who are required to take two corona tests and go to quarantine.
  • In Flanders and Wallonia, the regions have officially shared that information from this week with the local authorities. The municipalities only have to conclude a protocol with the region. For example, the emergency services know who is potentially infected (if they themselves have to intervene), but they can also monitor whether the measures are being complied with.
  • De Wolf attacked the Brussels government about this, already on Monday in the local press, this morning on Radio 1. “Alain Maron (Ecolo) wants to do everything himself, he doesn’t want to call in the mayors. But this way I sail blind. If we knew who should be quarantined, we could contact those people. Either by the local police officers or by municipal staff, ”De Wolf tells Bruzz.
  • Etterbeek has a large number of inhabitants with French nationality, including many expats. Almost all of them returned to the south for the Christmas season.
  • It is no coincidence that De Wolf raises the matter. The Etterbeek mayor is one of the leaders of the MR in Brussels. They are in opposition in the region. And under the skin a bigger ‘institutional’ battle is underway: are the 19 Brussels municipalities or rather the Brussels Region that have to fulfill a number of tasks in the capital? This is certainly reflected in this pandemic: everyone wants to occupy as much ground as possible, while the overlap of powers between an urban region and no fewer than 19 municipalities is nevertheless considerable.
  • Maron himself did not want to respond, but had a statement read out on Radio 1. “This is a political game in Brussels. Because there is a follow-up of the travelers, they are called. And if they don’t follow up on the questions, and if they don’t comply with the rules, the mayors will be notified, ”Maron said. But strangely enough, he declares “that it would not have been necessary until now“.
  • The latter confirms Inge Neven, the head of the regional Health Inspectorate who works for Maron. They employ tracers who call everyone, as well as 60 field agents who carry out on-the-spot checks. “If that person still objected, we would call in the police. But we have not had to do that yet, ”said Neven.
  • The very minimal implementation of the task of the local police is at odds with De Wolf, who would like to do more from ‘his’ municipality. The question is whether the consultations in Brussels today will yield anything, but in the meantime, most travelers from abroad in Brussels have of course already been home for two weeks.

The big picture: It is not the only file crackling between the MR and the left, in the capital.

  • “400 people gathered in this way, in full medical crisis, while the contact professions are forbidden to do their job. And that to attack the police? Unfortunately very predictable, and yet this demonstration was allowed. Mayor Emir Kir has to answer ”, Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) tweeted fiercely yesterday.
  • The reason was the Brussels riots, which left a trail of destruction on the North Station. A fire was set, a police station was beaten to pieces, bus shelters destroyed and massive violence against police officers. Ultimately, the police themselves arrested no fewer than 116 people.
  • Even the king got into the riot: Filip was on his way home, the castle of Laeken, after a working day in Brussels. The car, a black armored Mercedes with number plate 1, got stuck due to the conditions. But the police cordon always remained between him and the rioters: there was never really any danger for the head of state.
  • It should come as no surprise that the MR immediately jumped on the riots. Bouchez has been making it for months ‘violence against the police’ is his hobby, and does not fail to remind each incident that his party is on the side of law enforcement.
  • Even more: during the formation of a government, the MR preyed on the Interior, whereby several people at the table thought there was a good chance that Bouchez would take that post himself, in order to as a kind of Sarkozy figure to make his career. The former French president also started on the Interior, and like Sarkozy, Bouchez is known as’hyperprésident‘.
  • Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld) also reacted sharply: “Under no circumstances can we accept what happened in Schaerbeek today. Investigations are in full swing. More than 100 people have been arrested. Rioters will not go free. ” It immediately gave some color to it law-and-order-story that the liberals like to tell.
  • But the left is more bored with the case. Because the riots started in response to the death of 23-year-old Ibrahima Barrie, an hour after the police arrested him. “Another victim of police brutality“Is the claim of the protesters.
  • In addition, the family’s lawyer, Alexis Deswaef, stirs up the case. He acknowledged that Barrie died of a heart defect, but questions the circumstances of the death. “False information has been passed on to journalists, that the boy was under the influence of drugs, to cover up their own mistakes and on victim blaming to do. That is unacceptable, ”he said on Radio 1.
  • That is the case with part of the Brussels population There is dissatisfaction with the police brutality, is an understatement. And that dossier is certainly alive among the left-wing voters. After Adil C., a 19-year-old man, died in a police chase in the spring, riots also broke out. The man circumvented the corona rules, but his moped was hit by a combination during a chase in Anderlecht. While the MR uncomplicatedly takes the side of the police, this is a much more nuanced story for PS, Ecolo, but also Groen and de Vooruit in Brussels.
  • Moreover, politics is struggling with a very vocal and active police union VSOA. It has discovered social media for some time, and shares almost all, often very shocking, images of police brutality and attacks by demonstrators. This immediately puts the debate on edge, especially on social media: the extreme right uses the images en masse to feed their supporters.

Painful: The counter that the Flemish government launched for the vaccines is offline again.

  • Right away big press conference Jan Jambon (N-VA), the Flemish Prime Minister, announced the new vaccine rollout. Good news: the end is in sight.
  • This also includes a counter that ticks away nicely every time new vaccinees arrive. Such a counter was already informally put together, but it would therefore become the ‘official variant’ for Flanders.
  • Only, the matter became launched with incorrect data. “We have been premature”, it sounds in Het Nieuwsblad. For example, the Flemish government had to admit that it is not true that 34,500 Flemish people have already been vaccinated, it concerns “at least 31,500 people”.
  • A “mistake by the company“, States Care and Health. “We had little time to prepare it properly and were premature. When we noticed that the figures were not correct, we investigated and encountered a number of problems. ”

Money, money, money: Minister of Finance Vincent Van Peteghem (CD&V) will continue with his securities tax.

  • Yesterday in Parliament, Van Peteghem, the CD&V Deputy Prime Minister, put down his proposals for a securities tax, from securities accounts of 1 million euros.
  • That is the so-called ‘rich tax’ that the socialists dreamed of, albeit in the Vivaldi version. It was especially the reason for the PVDA to level the tax for hours on end yesterday, they call it the ‘effectless tax’.
  • At the N-VA, the criticism is mainly about the fact that extra taxes are added, while there is no reduction in the burden in the coalition agreement. In the purple-yellow deal that the N-VA concluded with the PS, there was a tax reduction, the N-VA repeated in the Chamber.
  • What both opposition parties agree on: this is not a tax that only affects the rich. After all, a lot of ‘small’ investors who invest in class 23 products, that is life insurance and the like, will indirectly also pay the tax.
  • Van Peteghem refuted the criticism, because those products already receive a lot of tax benefits. And striking: the In the end, PS did not file its alternative plan B, a tax on all securities accounts. With that, the parliamentary party, with rebel party leader Ahmed Laaouej (PS), is keeping pace this time.

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