Since this October 1st, Flanders has given up wearing masks in a whole series of circumstances, such as the interior of Horeca establishments, cultural venues, cinemas, schools or even shops. And unlike Wallonia and Brussels, has not planned to condition access to some of these structures (rest homes, sports and cultural halls, Horeca) to the presentation of a “Covid Safe Ticket”.
A unique situation among our close neighbors:
- In the Nederlands, lThe COVID certificate has been compulsory since September 25 for everyone from 13 years old in the hotel and catering industry (except for take-out), events and artistic and cultural performances. Night clubs, after having closed their doors in July and August, were able to reopen but with closed hours.
- In France, the health pass is compulsory for all places of leisure and culture bringing together more than 50 people, cafes and restaurants, hospitals, retirement homes, medico-social establishments,
- At Luxembourg, the wearing a mask remains compulsory in shops. For the Horeca, the operator has the choice of imposing the “Covidcheck” (equivalent to our Covid Safe Ticket), or of applying the health protocol with distances and masks.
- In Germany, lMasks remain compulsory in closed public spaces, in shops and on local public transport. These gatherings cannot have more than ten people. A recent negative test or proof of vaccination is compulsory in the hotel and catering industry.
A situation that could even encourage tourism from unvaccinated neighbors, even if access to our country is in principle conditional on a health pass… which is not, however, verified at land borders.
A better vaccination rate, yes, but …
What makes Flanders the only country to relax these measures in this way? An exceptional vaccination rate, among the highest in Europe, or even the world, with 80% of the population vaccinated, but above all 93% of adults, and even 95% over 55.
Its fragile population protected, Flanders therefore considers that it can afford to harvest the fruits of this successful campaign, and therefore dropped the mask except in public transport and where distancing is not possible. And apart from discotheques, to allow free access to everyone, without the need to present a Covid Safe Ticket.
As the vaccine only partially protects against transmission, this strategy could lead to a significant increase in contamination: on is currently witnessing a rise of 40% of cases detected for Flanders.
But the Flemish bet is that this increase will not translate into an increase in severe cases, and therefore in hospital admissions. A risky bet? In the province of Antwerp less vaccinated (68% of the population, less than the Walloon average), new hospitalizations are already up 37%.
And in the other countries also (or more) vaccinated, how is it going?
There are few countries where vaccination coverage is higher: this is however the case in Portugal (86%), the emirates (84%) and Iceland (80%). Spain has a comparable rate.
In all these countries, contaminations seem under control, but it should be noted that Portugal, Iceland and Spain experienced a peak this summer that Flanders did not really register. A “natural” immunity is therefore certainly added to the immunity provided by the vaccine.
And more importantly, the number of admissions is falling everywhere, to a much lower level than in Belgium.
Conversely, the United Kingdom has known since the summer a higher level of contamination but also of deaths. But the vaccination rate remains below 70%.