Since Thursday 12 March 2020, Belgium has been in the “federal phase of crisis management”.
The government is assisted by experts in various fields. These experts advise the government on the measures to be taken. These experts sit together in an evaluation cell (CELEVAL).
Celeval is chaired by the FPS Public Health and consists of:
- Health experts
- Behavioural experts
- Communication experts
Specific cells to prepare and concretise the decisions
Given the major impact of this pandemic on the entire socio-economic fabric, various crisis units have been put together to operationalise the crisis management:
The Operational Unit, coordinated by the NCCN. Via the on-call service (24/7), this unit facilitates the flow of information between the authorities, ensures that the crisis infrastructures are fully operational, and guarantees that the crisis units will be alerted if necessary.
The Socio-economic Unit is chaired by the FPS Economy and is made up of representatives of the Ministers for the Economy, Employment and Public Health and for SMEs, as well as from the FPS Economy, Employment, and Labour, Mobility, Social Security and from the Government Department (POD) Social Integration. It carries out analyses and provides advice on the socio-economic impact of the measures already taken or that will be taken.
The Information Unit is jointly chaired by the FPS Public Health and the NCCN. It ensures the coordination of all local, regional, community and federal authorities so that the crisis communication strategies and actions are coherent. It provides strategic advice to the competent authorities by basing its actions on the identified information needs of the public.
The Legal Units are responsible for drafting the legal texts and providing answers to various legal questions raised in the context of this complex crisis management.
The International Unit facilitates the flow of information at European level between the equivalent crisis management authorities.
The Task Force Integrated Police coordinates the actions of the police services. Other units have been activated to answer various frequently asked questions, and to verify the translations of the published texts.
Since Thursday 19 March, the Economic Risk Management Group (ERMG) has also been operational to manage the economic and macroeconomic risks associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Belgium.
Strategic and policy-making bodies for decision-making
Since the start of this pandemic, the political authorities have taken decisions based on the recommendations of the health experts in this field.
The National Security Council (NSC), which essentially consists of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers, has been extended to include the Ministers-President of the Regions and Communities. This collegiate body takes the policy decisions for managing the crisis.
The Federal Coordination Committee (COFECO) is chaired by the NCCN. Management of the medical aspects is specifically coordinated by the FPS Public Health (hospital capacity, personal protective equipment, testing, etc.). COFECO is made up of the Chair of the RMG and representatives of the Prime Minister, the Federal Ministers for Home Affairs, Justice, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Public Health, Budget, Mobility, Defence, Employment and Labour, as well as the Ministers-President of the Regions and Communities. The following administrations are also represented: the FPSs Public Health, Mobility, Economy and Defence as well as the regional crisis centres and the federal police. The committee prepares and coordinates the implementation of the policy decisions of the NSC at strategic level.
To operationalise these strategic and policy decisions, consultations are organised with the Provincial Governors, the Senior Official of Brussels and the Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, so that they in turn can coordinate actions at municipal level.
Health authority experts are constantly developing procedures for health professionals. They know how to quickly identify a patient who may be infected by the coronavirus and what to do in this case. Several laboratories can quickly identify the virus. All hospitals in our country know how to treat patients infected by the coronavirus in safe conditions.