The new Belgian government has moved to streamline its response to the COVID-19 crisis with the appointment of Pedro Facon, director general for health at Belgium’s Federal Public Service Health (FPSH) as ‘Corona Commissioner.’
In his novel new role, Facon will attempt to coordinate Belgium’s complex web of political actors to present a united national response to the crisis. Announced as part of the coalition agreement of the De Croo government, Facon will be the face and coordinator of the fight against COVID-19 in Belgium. In Spring, Belgium had one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in Europe and, like many other countries in Europe, has been struggling with a rising rate of reported infections.
This commissioner will not be a political figure but a crisis manager, so that the entire country and its regions will fight the coronavirus pandemic at the same speed
Maggie de Block, former Minister of Social Affairs, Public Health and Asylum & Migration, Belgium
News of Facon’s appointment follows last week’s announcement that Frank Vandenbourcke is replacing PharmaBoardroom interviewee Maggie de Block as minister of public health.
Speaking at the European Health Forum Gastein 2020 last week, de Block introduced the new role, noting that “In Belgium we have a very complicated political system, so in the new [Belgian] government a coronavirus commissioner will have to bridge the inter-federal level in Belgium. This commissioner will not be a political figure but a crisis manager, so that the entire country and its regions will fight the coronavirus pandemic at the same speed.”
Facon had served in his previous role since February 2017. He holds a master’s degree in political science from KU Leuven, with a specialisation in public administration and audits, was previously a researcher at the Institute for Government (KU Leuven), a strategy and organisation adviser at the NIHDI and as head of cabinet under Minister De Block.
He has been at the frontline of the Belgian response to COVID-19 since day one, playing an important role in the transformation of hospitals in the first wave of the pandemic where hundreds of extra beds were provided in intensive care units, and COVID-19 patients were placed in separate hospital wards. Facon has also recently become part of the Celeval, the federal evaluation unit that advises the National Security Council.
His appointment was welcomed by Belgian virologist Marc van Ranst, who tweeted that Facon “is a specialist in the optimal cooperation of the various “federated entities” in our country. He knows his way around government, cabinets and administrations. During this crisis he organized the hospital sector very well. Every success, Pedro!”
Microbiologist Herman Goossens added that Facon was a “great, brilliant” choice for corona commissioner and sees him as a figure that can unite the Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south of the country. “I have the feeling that Flanders and Wallonia are drifting a bit apart in the corona debate. People are much less concerned in French-speaking Belgium than in Flanders. A different wind is blowing there.”