“It was said that the children had adapted, it is not true”

You pleaded for the end of the mask in primary school, the Federal Minister of Health, Frank Vandenbroucke, was opposed to it. Won the “School Mask War”?

At the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, which I chair, we have always been opposed to this measure and we only accepted it because the Omicron variant was very contagious and caused damage in schools. But we also said that we had to remove this measure as soon as the situation improved. We see the problem posed by the mask in the organization of schools; sometimes there are even arguments with the parents. It is an obstacle to learning, for example French. It has been said that the children have adapted, this is not true: it remains very restrictive for them, as for the teachers. We therefore put strong pressure on the experts and on the Minister of Health who pleaded for more caution. Flanders and the German-speaking Community stood up with us, the Minister-Presidents of Wallonia and Brussels, MM. Di Rupo and Vervoort supported us. You still have to realize that reopening nightclubs, removing the mask for customers at restaurants, for example, and staying with such strict rules in schools, it was not consistent, nor ideal for the adhesion of the population.

And the end of the mask in secondary school, when is it?

If it had only been up to the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and Flanders, it would have been from February 19. I pleaded for it. Given the reluctance of the experts, I’m willing to wait a little longer, but I don’t agree to discuss it in mid-March as we were offered. The time to apply the decision, that would put us back after Easter, out of the question! The compromise is that we will discuss it at the beginning of March… And I hope that it won’t even be relevant anymore because we would then have gone into the yellow phase.

It was still necessary to twist the barometer a little to go into the orange phase?

It is true that we were still in red at the level of new hospital admissions, but the evolution is going in the right direction and we have therefore decided to go a little further in the relaxations. This is also why the 90% gauges, as defined in the orange phase, and for the application of which I had pleaded, remained stuck at 80%… But this can rise to 100% if the ventilation is good.

Ventilation is crucial. Despite the subsidies released, it is not always easy for schools. Are you going to decide on new subsidies?

It’s not on the agenda. We have already released 3 million. I think that education networks, municipalities for municipal schools, for example, can also intervene. We are going to continue the efforts in terms of ventilation, it is important. I’m simply saying that we have to be careful not to make demands too quickly, with checks and penalties. You have to be pragmatic and allow time, above all not to lay down inapplicable measures.

It is a Codeco rather favorable to culture, events, sports and youth activities. You must be thrilled? A message to citizens?

That they shouldn’t be cautious, that they shouldn’t be afraid to return to the cinema, the theatre, concerts or sporting events. Barring a cataclysm, we are heading towards a total return to freedom and we will have a great summer for the festivals. All these organizers need them badly.

→ The reductions decided at Codeco boost morale:
find here our dossier on the Consultation Committee and its consequences


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