With the health pandemic well into a second wave, it has been revealed the Parliament will now go into a virtual lockdown until the end of November due to the alarming rise in cases in Brussels.
A Parliament spokesperson told The Parliament Magazine on Friday that, despite the doors effectively being shut, all meetings will still take place, including committees and hearings as well as plenary and group meetings. She said, “These will all continue but they will happen remotely.”
She added, “Given the sanitary circumstances and as established in the President's decision, all meetings are taking place remotely, from distance, until the end of November with very few exemptions, for example, political trialogues which are in a final phase.”
“The bureau (the Parliament’s decision-making body) decided therefore that the central attendance register would be closed for the same period of time.”
“There will be a few exemptions, for example, if physical attendance is requested for a trialogue session or to chair a meeting. This was also the practice in the Spring.”
“Given the sanitary circumstances and as established in the President's decision, all meetings are taking place remotely, from distance, until the end of November with very few exemptions” European Parliament spokesperson
The news comes as the Belgian government is expected to restore a second lockdown of the country at a meeting later on Friday. This, it is believed, will include tough new travel restrictions within the country.
According to official statistics, the country currently has the highest number of Coronavirus cases per head of population in Europe, followed by the Czech Republic.
On overage, more than 13,000 people tested positive for Coronavirus per day over the past week in Belgium, as hospitalisation figures and deaths continue to rise, according to Sciensano’s latest data.
Between 17 and 23 October, an average of 13,052 new people tested positive per day, which is an increase of 38 percent compared to the week before. On 20 October, more than 18,500 infections were confirmed.
The total number of deaths in the country since the beginning of the pandemic is currently 10,810 which, again, is one of the highest rates, per head of population, in Europe.
In light of this, earlier this week, the Commission announced new plans to help curb the spread of the disease at EU level, including improved track and testing.
Meanwhile, Parliament has also decided to resume providing meals for the needy in its three official “seats”.
The institution has responded to a sharp upsurge in Coronavirus cases throughout Europe by offering food, free of charge, to those deemed to be most in need.
The spokesperson said its kitchens will again start preparing meals for social welfare associations in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg; the three sites of the assembly.
The service, she said, will resume on Sunday with up to 500 meals being provided every day in Brussels, with a further 250 in Strasbourg and Luxembourg each.
The service was launched in April at the start of the crisis and, at the time, Parliament was serving an estimated 500 meals each day in collaboration with four Brussels-based associations: Restò du Coeur Saint Gilles, Douche FLUX, Croix Rouge, CPAS Ixelles.