Belgian politics on hold as mediator contracts COVID-19

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium’s plans to forge a fully fledged government 16 months after an election were put on hold on Tuesday after one of the two mediators charged with the job tested positive for COVID-19.

Egbert Lachaert, the head of the Flemish Liberal Party, was forced to quarantine for two weeks after learning that a test had shown he was infected, a spokesman for his party said.

Lachaert was appointed three weeks ago to break the deadlock and has been working since last Friday with Flemish socialist leader Conner Rousseau to create a seven-party coalition. They were due to report back to the king on Friday.

During his time as mediator, Lachaert has met many political leaders and had repeated meetings with King Philip.

A royal palace spokesman said the king would be tested for COVID-19, adding that the news did not necessarily mean that Lachaert could not continue his mediation role.

Belgium currently has a minority administration which has governed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in March.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Ed Osmond