Belgian health workers rally to oppose mandatory vaccines

Thousands of Belgian health care workers have rallied in Brussels to voice their opposition to mandatory COVID-19 vaccines and to demand better working condition as a surge in new virus cases weighs heavily on hospitals

Around 4,000 people – some with placards reading “Save your nurse, one day she will be the one saving you,” or “My body, my choice” – took part in the march, according to police in Belgium’s capital.

From April, those without a proper justification for refusing to comply could be dismissed. According to some estimates, around 60,000 health workers across the country of 11.5 million people are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I think that everybody should have the choice,” Virginie, a doctor’s assistant from the southern Belgian region of Namur who did not want to provide her full name, told The Associated Press. “If we get rid of the non-vaccinated staff, we will never be able to make it. It is already tough enough.”

Belgium reported an average of 17,000 new daily cases over the last week, and around 300 people were admitted to hospitals each day. As of Monday, 816 people were in intensive care, a rise of 7% over the previous seven-day period.

“It’s tense and complicated,” Benjamin D’Heur, a nurse from the city of Liege, said.

“There is COVID, on the one hand, with people literally between life and death. ICUs are saturated,” he said. “And there is professional exhaustion that we hear about and see more and more. People are burned out or on sick leave, and who can blame them. The government must do something about it.”

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Follow AP’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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