Belgium in Brief: What freedom really means

Belgium in Brief: What freedom really means
Credit: Belga

And so it finally came to pass: Belgium has finally made the transition to the closest form of normality known since the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago. It has been a gruelling journey that put the country's public patience, political cohesion, and healthcare system to the test.

With the national vaccination rollout largely a success and the most recent Omicron wave subsided, the end to most of the restrictions that constantly impinged on daily affairs has at last arrived. Freedoms that only a few days ago were withheld – like walking unmasked into a shop or filling concert halls to capacity – have evaporated overnight, much to the delight of concerned sectors.

Yet the lifting of the many measures that had become second nature was hardly met with the jubilation we once would have expected. Last year, some tub-thumping politicians not far from Belgium tried to boost their public standing by announcing to great fanfare a widespread loosening of restrictions, only to be haunted by their ploy as infections skyrocketed soon after, forcing embarrassing U-turns.

It would also be premature to say that Europe's protracted battle against the virus is completely over; although circulating within the EU will now be much easier since the Passenger Locator Form will largely be dropped, not all regions are yet considered sufficiently clear of Covid to forego this precaution.

However, it is impossible to ignore the Ukraine war that continues to weigh heavy on the continent with each day the Russian assault continues. The painful plight of its citizens has prompted near-daily protests in Brussels that have eclipsed the previous protests against Covid measures – one conflict succeeding the other.

With war unfolding so close to home, the winds of celebration couldn't fail to be snatched from Belgium's sails, with EU representatives meeting again in the capital to discuss the tensions and Ukraine's accession to the bloc.

Yet it would be unfair to deny ourselves completely a dose of thankfulness for the passing of a major scourge that impacted us all. Prime Minister De Croo gave voice to the levity of the moment when strongly assuring Belgians that "going to events, going to the movies, going to concerts… it is all absolutely recommended from now on."

There is a limit to the doom and gloom anyone can take. As Europe faces its gravest threat to peace since the Second World War, we should be all the more appreciative of what freedom really means.

Feeling grateful? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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. No more PLF: Belgium changes travel rules from 11 March

Belgium will once again adapt its travel rules for those entering the country from Friday 11 March, the Consultative Committee announced during a press conference. Read more.

2. CST and face masks: These rules change today

As was announced during the Consultative Committee on Friday, Belgium transitioned to code yellow on Monday, meaning the majority of the coronavirus measures in place have been lifted. Read more.

3. EU warns of ‘clear’ obstacles to fast-track Ukraine membership

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen welcomed on Sunday Ukraine’s membership application to join the EU, but warned there is no getting around the “clear path” set out in the EU’s treaties. Read more.

4. Russia says it is still delivering gas to Europe, via Ukraine

Russia is still delivering gas to Europe via Ukraine and at the agreed levels, according to an announcement on Sunday by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom, Belga News Agency reports. Read more.

5. Period poverty: Wallonia to hand out 2.5 million free sanitary pads

In a bid to fight period poverty in the region, the Walloon government will be handing out 2.5 million sanitary pads for people in precarious situations from April onwards. Read more.

6. From fake phones to cigarettes, sales of counterfeit goods soar during pandemic

The distribution of counterfeit goods has been thriving throughout the pandemic, according to a report from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and EUROPOL. Read more.

7. Hidden Belgium: A wild ride on the Antwerp Ring cycle path

Ranked in 2019 as one of the top three cities in Europe for cycling, Antwerp has developed a network of separate cycle trails that take you safely to every corner of the city. Read more.


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