The Vaccine Chronicles

published by BCCSA Cape Town on the 29, Jun, 2021

in News

As vaccinations are in full swing in Belgium and now also starting in South Africa, we asked a few Belgians on their experiences. Georges Gosselin lives in Somerset-West and recently got his first jab in SA, Marianne Vinck, Sabine Fiorine and Luc Uytenhove preferred to travel to Belgium to get it as soon as possible. We asked them the same series of questions.

Arlette and Georges

Georges, for the readers who don’t know you yet, can you tell us in a few words a bit more about yourself?

“Well my name is Georges Gosselin and my lovely wife is Arlette Vanovertfeldt, we moved from Belgium to SA in 1994, I ran a small hotel in Paarl at that time. The last couple of years we are living in Somerset-West enjoying our pension. “

You decided to get vaccinated, what was your motivation?

“Very simple, I just want to be safe!”

How was your experience with the vaccination process here in South-Africa?

“We got our first jab of the Pfizer Vaccine a few weeks ago. It didn’t got any side effect just a bit of pain where the injection was done.”

“We were officially registered but didn’t received any invite, I am almost eighty so I hoped it would’t take too long. A friend of ours called us one afternoon and said we should hurry to the Helderberg Hospital as they have spare vaccines at the moment and you can just walk in. So we did, at first they couldn’t help us but just before we wanted to leave they called us in again. The whole process was very well organised, I was happily surprised.The staff was very helpful and in no time we were out again. Our next jab is on the 19th of July.”

Jeff and Marianne

Marianne, for those that don’t know you yet can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

“We live since 2012 in Somerset West, near Cape Town. We opened a guesthouse in 2012 and started making Belgian quality chocolates in 2013. At the end of 2020 we closed our guesthouse due to corona, and because Marianne’s Fine Chocolates is doing well – specialty : wine pairing chocolates.”

You went to Belgium to get vaccinated – did you get an invitation ?

“The main reason for visiting Belgium is our family, of course. Parents, children, grandchildren etc. As vaccination in South Africa went slow, at the time of our booking there were around 250 000 people vaccinated, we tried to organize it in Belgium (moreover we are still paying for Belgian social security). But in the meantime Jeff had registered in South Africa for a vaccine in the category 60+, and he received his invitation surprisingly fast on 24 May – so he got his first Pfizer vaccine in Somerset West (very professional and friendly service – well organized). At the end of our quarantine period in Belgium, we contacted the vaccination centre for expats ourselves by email. The same day we had appointments for both of us.”

Was it easy to fly back to Belgium? What about the restrictions? Quarantine?

“We first re-booked our Emirates ticket of last year at no extra cost, but then all flights over Dubai were cancelled in June, due to covid numbers. At that moment we booked new tickets with Ethiopean Airlines. Of course you need to have a negative PCR test, you need to fill out a PLF (person locator form). At moment of arrival in Zaventem, we were again tested by the Red Cross, and then went in quarantine for 10 days (Jeff at his mothers and I stayed at my son’s place). We received telephone calls to check, and the local police officer stopped by too verify. Then we had our third covid test at a local test center, which you had to pre-book.The test results came within 24 hours. All went well.”

Did you have any personal experience with Covid-19 before?

“We were always very careful, as due to my profession as a chocolatier, we cannot afford to become ill or lose taste and smell.”

You decided to get vaccinated, what was your motivation?

“Main reasons are health and travel : when you are vaccinated, you can still get infected, but with less symptoms, and of course we want to be able to visit our family on a yearly basis.”

How was your experience with the vaccination process in Belgium?

“My experience was 5 star : friendly, fast, super – J&J one shot on 15 June. Jeff’s experience was mixed : he received his second Pfizer on 22 June – his two vaccines are written on one card, however we struggle to get it in the dbase CovidSafe – so the CovidSafe app on his smartphone only shows the Belgian vaccine – and gives a wrong picture of an incomplete vaccination. The vaccination centre for expats couldn’t do it, local doctors cannot help, UZA Edegem cannot help, so we escalated the issue to the administration centre for the expats.”

Luc and Hilde

Luc, for those that don’t know you yet can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

“Together with my wife, Hilde, I moved to SA in 2005. After a few holidays in the country we fell in love with the Winelands and decided to move to Robertson. At that point in time it was the unknown part of the Cape wine region. Since then we are running Ballinderry, The Robertson Guest House. Even after 16 years we are still very hands on ourselves, not only in the hospitality part but also in the never ending story of renovating and upgrading. Hospitality is a challenging business anyway but Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on our lives and business. Since the start of the pandemic we have missed our mostly European visitors which make the best part of our turn-over. Luckily we are resilient and we strongly believe that tourism will bounce back stronger than ever.”

You went to Belgium to get vaccinated – did you get an invitation ?

“The Belgian Embassy in SA sent out an e-mail saying that Belgian expats could get the jab in Belgium. We registered and a few weeks later we already had our appointment in Brussels Military Hospital. It went all very smoothly – we are thankful for that opportunity.” Was it easy to fly back to Belgium? “You need to follow the rules, get tested in SA, fill in the Passenger Location Form… not a big deal after all. We flew Turkish Airlines via Istanbul, all went very well. Back in Belgium you have to get tested again on arrival and further on day 7 of your 10 day quarantine. On arrival we received two codes to get tested per sms; we booked our appointments online. No problem.”

What about the restrictions? Quarantine?

“Ten day quarantine indeed, so you need a place to stay on your own in Belgium. You are allowed to leave to go to the supermarket, pharmacy or doctor. On the first day we were contacted by phone by the Flemish Contact Tracing and we received several follow-up mails about the testing. When your second test is negative you are allowed to leave quarantine. So we did!”

Did you have any personal experience with Covid-19 before?

“Luckily not.”

You decided to get vaccinated, what was your motivation?

“The vaccine is the only way out of this mess. It would be totally irresponsible not to take it. If we wouldn’t have had the vaccine in Belgium we would certainly have registered in South Africa. If you are working in the tourism industry there is no other way than to take the vaccine. Unless you prefer being under regular lockdowns of course.”

How was your experience with the vaccination process in Belgium?

“Very smooth and simple. Well organized. The good thing is that we are vaccinated with the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which gives us full protection after two weeks. We have now downloaded our EU Covid-19 certificate through the Belgian government E-Health website, so we are free to travel in Europe..”

Sabine and Yves

Sabine, you are one of our board members, for those that don’t know you yet can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

 “I am Sabine Fiorine, been living in SA since 1988. I have been living for 26 years in Swellendam where I had 3 restaurants.
Moved 6 years ago after my husband passed away to Stellenbosch.”

Was it easy to fly back to Belgium? What about the restrictions?

“I flew with Turkish airways on the 12th of June to Brussels with PCR test results and PLF.
I had to show the required papers on several occasions to the ground stewards in Cape Town airport and I also got verified incoming and outgoing in Istanbul.
When I arrived in Brussels customs only asked for the PCR test results and kept the printed PLF.”

Did you have any experience with Covid-19 before?

“I got tested positief with Corona end of April .”

How was your experience with the vaccination process in Belgium?

“Not knowing when to receive a vaccination in SA, I registered on the link Belgians abroad – Covid19, 10 days prior to leaving for Belgium.
I  received a mail on the 22nd June with a confirmation for a vaccination. Thursday the 24th at 17H12 at the militair hospital in Brussels.
Only the 15 expats received the J&J vaccin the other people got vaccinated with the other vaccins”

more info on Vaccination of Belgian citizens residing abroad

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