Belgium in Brief: Heading Home For The Summer

Belgium in Brief: Heading Home For The Summer

It seems a little like we have jumped back in time to news stories that already happened.

Heatwave? Check. Rising cases? Check. Out-of-office notes a-plenty as people go on holiday? Certainly.

We have reached the strange doldrums of August when many opt to take their vacations. While the majority would normally be setting off for warmer climates, jumping on planes, or setting off for a long drive to a favourite holiday spot, that's not so much the case now.

Speaking to Belgium in Brief, many travellers seem to be heading home for the time being - taking advantage of temporarily eased travel measures and hoping they last. Many of those not going to their country of origin are embarking on travels to safe regions, keeping an eye on the news while they do to ensure that doesn't change.

Are you on vacation? Did your plan change in light of the new measures? Let us know here.

So before you stop reading your emails for a month, let's take a look at the latest news.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Belgium breaks an average of 500 new infections a day

An average of 517.1 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) between 25 and 31 July, according to new figures by the Sciensano Public Health Institute published on Tuesday.

This represents an increase of 60% compared to the previous week.

The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic is 70,314, compared to 69,849 on Sunday. The total reflects all people who have been infected and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died from the consequences of the virus. Read More

2. In search of the invisible enemy: Brussels under lockdown

Belgium went into lockdown on 18 March 2020. For over two months, and in an unprecedented manner, public life came to a near standstill from one day to the other, while the invisible enemy exponentially claimed more victims every day. Read more.

3. Thousands of travellers have returned to Belgium from red zones

Thousands of people have travelled back to Belgium from red zones in recent days, according to data collected through the so-called Passenger Locator Form.

The Passenger Locator Form is a form that has been mandatory since Saturday for anyone entering Belgium after a stay of at least 48 hours abroad. The form gathers information on people’s stay and their means of transport. By Monday morning, authorities had already received more than 200,000 forms, according to Federal Public Health Service (FPS Public Health) spokesperson Vinciane Charlier.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 people a day arrived from red zones. Travel to red zones is not allowed, and people returning from them face a mandatory 14-day quarantine and have to take a coronavirus test.

Read More.

4. Over 200,000 returning travellers’ forms collected in four days

Hundreds of thousands of contact tracing forms for travellers returning to Belgium from abroad have already been collected since they were released only four days ago.

The Passenger Locator Form (PLF) was rolled out on Saturday and made mandatory for all returning travellers having spent more than 48 hours abroad.

Foreign nationals coming to Belgium for a period of more than 48 hours are also required to fill in the form, which collects passenger contact data to facilitate contact tracing procedures. Read more.

5. Extinct butterfly spotted in Belgium after 25-year absence

A small butterfly long thought to be extinct in Belgium, the Chestnut heath, was spotted at the end of June to the south of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse in Wallonia, conservation association Natagora announced Tuesday.

This unexpected return was probably helped by the warm temperatures of recent years, the association explained, adding that under the correct conditions the species could re-establish itself permanently in Wallonia. Read More.

6. Belgium’s shortage of nurses is worsening

The shortage of people pursuing nursing professions is worsening in Belgium, Le Soir reports on Tuesday.

The shortage remains “a status quo at best” and is worsening at worst, according to Le Soir, as there is a low number of people enrolling in nursing studies and graduating, while there are 5,000 vacancies in Belgium, the Belgian Association of Nursing Practitioners (ACN) said.

The drop in enrolments in nursing studies can be linked to a reform of the degree in 2016 when the programme was lengthened from three to four years. This “has led to a 10% drop in enrolments,” according to the Federation of Francophone Students (FEF). Read more.

7. Employers not required to pay salary of staff quarantined after trip abroad

Employers in Belgium are not bound to paying the salary of employees who must quarantine after their return from an orange or a red colour-coded travel zone.

According to a labour lawyer’s analysis, an employer can rely on the national employment office, ONEM, to cover their quarantined employee’s salary.

“The employee will be covered by the ONEM for 70% of their salary up to a maximum amount of €2,754.76,” Carl Vander Espt, a lawyer specialised in labour laws, told La Libre.  Read more.

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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