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Brussels braces itself for COVID passes to boost sluggish vaccination rate

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By Jack Parrock
Women show their health passes to a waiter in Paris, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.
Women show their health passes to a waiter in Paris, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.   -   Copyright  Adrienne Surprenant/AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant

Restaurants and bars in Brussels are bracing to become the next in Europe to be required to enforce COVID passes for their customers.

The only major COVID-19 measures for waiting staff in the Belgian capital are obligations to wear a mask and for the establishment to have a CO2 meter.

But with vaccination rates in the Belgian capital lagging behind the rest of the country at just over 52% double dosed, the government is considering imposing the passes.

A scan of a QR code proves a person is vaccinated, tested or recently recovered from COVID - an app turns green and the person is allowed to take a table.

The hospitality sector in Brussels is worried though.

Guy Quirynen runs an international chain of ramen restaurants called Umamido.

"It just feels a bit sad in the sense that already our industry suffered a lot, and now we are being almost held hostage to get towards this aim," he told Euronews. "I wonder if there are not more efficient ways to do this."

That sentiment is echoed by the Brussels Association for hotels, restaurants, and bars.

They released a statement saying it is unfair the COVID passes are only targeting the capital region and not the whole country.

Flanders currently has a vaccination rate of 79.4% and Wallonia stands at 68.26%.

The vaccination rate across the whole of Belgium currently stands at over 71%.

In France, Italy, Denmark, and Ireland, where similar systems are already in place, vaccination rates have seen marked increases.

One of the diners who spoke to Euronews at the Umamido restaurant in Brussels actually works as a waiter in Paris.

"After one week it was OK," said Vincent. "The customers know that you need it, so they just come and you scan it and it's good."

The Belgian prime minister Alexandra de Croo also took to the streets of Brussels on foot on Wednesday in areas where people are refusing to get vaccinated.

The hospitality sector is waiting on a decision from its COVID steering committee on whether they will impose the passes.

The meeting takes place on September 17.

Watch the full video report in the player above.