Belgium to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2021, file photo, Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center nurse Maggie Bass, right, injects a COVID-19 vaccine into an arm in Jackson, Miss. A survey of Americans on President Joe Biden’s plan to require most workers to get either vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19 finds a deep and familiar divide: Democrats are overwhelmingly for it, while most Republicans are against it according to a poll released Thursday, Sept. 30, by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Health workers in Belgium who don’t want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will face losing their jobs.

Amid a surge of new coronavirus cases that has led hospitals to reserve half of their ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, Belgium’s federal government finalized a draft bill late on Monday to make vaccination of health care workers mandatory.

Starting Jan 1, they will have a three-month window to get their shots. During that period, those who remain unvaccinated will be notified of a suspension of their contract unless they can provide a certificate of recovery from COVID-19 or negative tests on a regular basis, and will be temporarily unemployed. From April, workers without a proper justification for their refusal could be dismissed.

According to various estimates, some 60,000 health workers across the country of 11.5 million country are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The draft bill needs to get the Council of State’s approval and be rubber-stamped by the Parliament.

The move could pave the way for mandatory vaccination across all sectors amid growing support for such a move in the political class, although Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in September he is not in favor of such a measure.

Coronavirus numbers don’t look good in Belgium ahead of Wednesday’s consultation committee, when De Croo is expected to announce new restrictive measures in a bid to stop the uptick of new infections and hospital admissions.

Nearly 10,000 new daily cases have been registered over the past seven days, up 27%., while hospital admissions have increased by 28% over the same period. according to figures released by Belgium’s public health institute. The number of deaths also increased by 27% in one week, to 26.7 daily deaths. In total, 26,400 people have died from coronavirus in Belgium.

According to Belgian media which had access to a report from experts advising the government, health specialists now recommend a temporary closure of the nightlife sector and activities where social distancing can’t be properly implemented.

Experts have also proposed to make remote working mandatory again until the Christmas break, the newspaper said, and recommend making mask wearing indoors compulsory from the age of 9 instead of 12.