The Namur Court of First Instance ruled that Belgium’s Wallonia region must fix the “apparent illegality” of its Covid Safe Ticket (CST) policy within a week or face 5,000 euros ($5,660) in fines for each day of delay, Belgian pro-freedom group Notre Bon Droit (NBD) announced. Wallonia, which includes most of southern Belgian, has a population of around 3.5 million.
The court pointed to several legal issues with Wallonia’s vaccine passport decree, issued October 21, including an “apparent contradiction” to European law and the right to protection of personal data. Tuesday’s ruling also said that the order may violate the principle of proportionality and criticized it for imposing discrimination “without objective and scientific justification,” according to NBD, which challenged the rule.
The government of Wallonia has appealed the decision, saying in a statement that it does not plan to suspend the CST despite the Namur court’s ruling.
“This decision does not cancel the Walloon decree,” the government said. “Therefore, the Covid Safe Ticket remains applicable in Wallonia.” The rule remains in effect during the appeal process, according to the Bulletin.
Notre Bon Droit has brought a similar action against another CST policy in Brussels, which is set to be heard December 8.
Belgium’s Covid Safe Ticket initiative launched nationwide on November 1, requiring people to present proof that they are “fully vaccinated,” recently tested negative for COVID-19, or recovered from it in the last six months for entry to various venues, including restaurants and gyms. The pass also applies to events with more than 50 people.
Fines for violations can run up to 500 euros for patrons and 2,500 euros for organizers.
NBD noted that “several experts have recently been skeptical about the advisability of the Covid Safe Ticket, in particular given the latter’s inability to curb infection, of which the authorities seem to be aware, having recently admitted that the CST and vaccination could not lead to the abandonment of protective measures.”
Some experts have even accused the scheme of contributing to a rise in cases. “The CST did not do what was expected of it,” microbiologist Emmanuel André told De Morgen on Monday. “It did not so much increase the vaccination rate, but it did lead to more contacts, and thus indirectly to more infections – the two are connected.”
With more than three-quarters of its population “fully vaccinated,” Belgium has nevertheless reported a record-breaking virus surge in recent weeks. The worst spike has occurred in Flanders, the country’s most vaccinated region, the Brussels Times reported.
“The number of occupied beds in intensive care has doubled in one week,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a press conference last week, warning that “the red line has been crossed.”
Despite the apparent failure of its restrictive public health regime, Belgium doubled down on punitive COVID-19 measures last month, mandating the jab for all healthcare workers and making work from home mandatory for four days a week through December 19 and for three days a week thereafter.
Belgium’s latest COVID crackdown mirrors a wave of similar moves across Europe and has led to massive demonstrations.