Belgium covid madness

Prenote: I accidentally created this as a new blog instead of an entry. So...I guess it was already visible since last october, but it was somewhere completely different. Take note: it's no longer applicable (I think).


(note: rant coming up. Feel free to skip) Belgium, we've had three waves already. Now after everything was loosened, an apparent fourth wave is looming. But nobody wants to admit failure, so we're not going to close shops. Instead we're improvise.

That is: restaurants with actual seats indoor (meaning: not "just" takeaway and/or a terrace outside) will need to scan the certificates of those wishing to purchase beverages AND sit down with it. Not everywhere, of course: Flanders has a vaccination degree of over 90% whereas Brussels and Wallonia drag down the average with roughly 60-70%.

In typical Belgium style, it almost immediately becomes obligated for Brussels, but with the notions that checks, let alone fines, won't be happening for at least a week. Meaning: it's in practice only obligated in a week.

The problem is that this causes a twofold problem. Let's start with the customers:

1) customers

I'm vaccinated. Twice. Moderna. Whee. But that's easy to say. How do I prove it? Well...there's a supposedly easy app for this, called covidsafeBE (on android, but I presume on apple as well). So how do you get your certificate? You link it to your itsme id. Oh, you don't have that? Don't worry. All you need to do is download some stuff on your windows-only computer, plug in an eid-reader, plug in your identity card, mess with the drivers a bit (because OF COURSE plug and play is a theory) and finally get it to work. On itsme. And then on the app. And then you can whip out the app, show your certificates (first and second, in my case), and have it scanned.

*sigh* I'm an IT guy. And it took me about 20 minutes of faffing about, and I only did that because it's part of my job. The average user isn't going to bother. Assuming they even can: this app only works on android 5.0 and up, so if you're the owner of a xperia play you're out of luck. If you're a stubborn nokia 3310 user who only uses their phone to call and text, you're out of luck. If you don't have an eid-reader and/or no windows computer: same thing.

It's supposedly possible to just print out the certificate, but if my driver's license's an indication(1), it gets wrinkled up in your wallet.'s digital or nothing.

Not that digital's free of common issues. One of our restaurant owners complained that a new kind of voucher only worked when printed on paper. After exhausting testing of everything what could be wrong, a colleague requested the users' phones to put at full brightness to ensure the scanner would recognize it. We haven't heard from the owner since. I am, your average CIS white male dude who wants to be in order whenever he has to visit a store. With all the hoops I've had to go through, I can't blame for others giving criticism. Like...when it's scanned, it doesn't only show your name and vaccination date, but also your birth date and some other personal infomation that store owners don't give a crap about but that people raise privacy concerns about. Great going, guys. This ain't your regular app...

Less than a week ago, there was a bartender/cashier stabbed over a kerfuffle when a customer didn't want to show his certificate. So how are our shop owners supposed to believe that this whole scanning thing is for their own benefit?

...and unfortunately, this is nothing to the absurdity of the other side:

2) bartenders:

my company owns a bunch of restaurants, in all regions of Belgium. In theory, every store has a tablet. This was given to them in 2018, back when everything seemed fine and dandy in our sector.
Obviously, things went bad with the crisis, but we're surviving. Spread out the tables? Reduce the tables? Separator screens? Hand sanitizers? We did it all. Even though those same separator screens weren't allowed a couple days before it was supposed to be obligatory.

Now we're supposed to scan our people who want to sit down to eat or drink something. This poses an...admittedly kind of local problem in that roughly half our clients take stuff to go in a lot of our stores. So we're supposed to ask whether or not they want to sit down and hope they don't realise that answering "sit down" provides a scan.
...with the aforementioned tablets. The registers have scanners themselves, but ey...that's a completely different world. That's for scanning vouchers, barcodes and such. Now if only these were connected to actual computers so a proper computer program could be written so...
...oh, right: I forgot: a cash register IS A PROPER COMPUTER. One a store needs to HAVE in order to OPERATE. Ours use windows, and going by our manufacturer, that goes for a large chunk of stores (I obviously don't know them all). So what does the government do: they create an app. Android and apple only. Sorry for the hardware, guys. Have some more.

...but at least this is a concern to restaurant owners outside us, as ours have a working tablet. What? Yes. More so: not just wifi in all joints, but wifi AND a data abonnement (in fact, the tablets were the cheapest kinds that nonetheless had a sim card entry because I don't fucking know). So...tablets: check. internet connection: check. All good, right?

Wrong. Yesterday I thought I was paying a routine visit when they gave me a tablet that they couldn't get to work with it. What seemed trivial at first (it worked on all tablets in our stock - three or four, all a later model than the ones given out in 2018) turned out to be a major concern: the app wasn't compatible with our tablets. And since most of those - nearly 50 - have the same hardware, that's a magnitude 50 of problem.
My boss contemplated buying more tablets (which would cost easily above 5000 euros for a measure that's supposed to be only temporary...and which our cashiers aren't happy about to begin with(2) ). I mailed the mail address provided on the app store page, checking whether there were known issues.
Later on, my boss asked me if <insert random brand of tablets> were fine. I had to admit I had no idea, because I had gotten an answer from the address (mind you: the address THE APP ITSELF provided): they wanted me to contact my local vaccination center while providing some administrative numbers of my vaccination test.



So...that's a dead end. In an almost impossible gambit, my boss scoured around the net and found a weird alternative: the Dutch covid safe scanner IS compatible. And can scan Belgian vaccination QR-codes.

So now I've got to inform all the shop owners to get the Dutch version if the Belgian one isn't working. Yeah...I've become part of the problem. Out of necessity, because there's no way I can install the app for every store owner individually.

And what does the politic class do? They're floating the idea that Flemish restaurant owners should do the same sort of checks. Despite our vaccination degree being above 90%.'s madness. Covid madness. Just not in the same way as before.

(1): about a month ago, I got my very first check on the road since I got my license 20 years ago. I always have it with me and it was still on paper back then, so...erm...the cop almost literally laughed in my face (which I can't even blame him: I looked even more like a dork back when that picture was taken).
(2): in fact, a few stores just resorted to closing off the seating area because they couldn't be hassled. All that was missing was a paper saying "FUCK BELGIUM GOVERNMENT!!!".
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Government IT meets the safe and healthy paranoid types that would like me kitted for chemical warfare to change a lightbulb? Hilarious.
Not that much madness, people start to realize how to properly deliver documents to the Brussels administrative centre.

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