Belgium in Brief: Ready To Reconfine?

Belgium in Brief: Ready To Reconfine?
Credit: Pixabay/Belga

Many artists have been recorded saying it over the years, but what a difference a day makes.

At the start of this week, Belgium was in a difficult situation, but things were still vague and open to interpretation. Days later, as the latest meeting of the National Security Council looms, Phase 5 looks a long way off.

Across the country, the common consensus now is that Belgium will begin to restrict measures again in an effort to slow down the ongoing spread of the virus.

Speaking on potential changes, Federal Minister for Health Maggie De Block confirmed expectations. Relaxations are not on the table. On the contrary, “we spoke of tightening of the measures, both at the national and the local level,” De Block said after the Consultative Committee meeting.

“On a local level, mayors will have to take measures to limit local infection outbreaks, and communities that show a high rate of infections,” De Block said. As for other measures, reduced social groups and new hours for bars are on the long list of predictions making the rounds.

As always, however, nothing is confirmed until officially announced - we'll keep you updated once we know more. The press conference following the National Security Council on Thursday will start at 1:30 PM, according to the Belgian Prime Minister. You can watch it live here.

So as you wait, wonder or work, let's have a look at the news out there.

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. What is on Belgium's Security Council's agenda today?

Belgium's National Security Council is meeting today to discuss the measures that will be taken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further now that cases continue to rise.

So what is likely to be discussed? As always, this involves a little bit of educated guesswork. Last Wednesday, the Security Council decided to postpone a decision on whether or not to enter Phase 5 of Belgium's exit plan out of lockdown from 1 August until today.

Following several meetings during the past few days, however, the conclusion seems to be that if anything, further restrictions will be announced again. Read more.

2. Belgium’s average of new coronavirus cases almost twice as high as last week

An average of 192.7 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium during the past week, according to figures by Sciensano on Thursday.

The trend of new infections per day has risen by 91% over the 7-day period from 13 to 19 July, meaning the average of new cases per day is almost twice as high as the average last week. Read More.

3. Fire at Liege airport causes significant damage but no casualties

A major fire which broke out on Wednesday night at the airport at Bierset by Liege has caused significant material damage, but flights have resumed this morning, airport authorities said. No-one was injured in the blaze.

The fire is now under control after a brief flare-up in the early morning, and flights have resumed. Read More.

4. Smaller social bubbles ‘necessary’ to prevent second coronavirus wave

The number of contacts that people are allowed to have urgently needs to be reduced if Belgium wants to stop a second coronavirus wave, according to biostatistics professor Geert Molenberghs.

The National Security Council should take firm measures today, especially about restricting social contacts again, said Molenberghs on Radio 2 on Thursday. “The 15-person bubble that is allowed to change every week, it is necessary that we get rid of that if we want to keep this under control,” he said.

In recent days, national health institute Sciensano has also called for people to restrict their social contacts outside their own households as much as possible. Read more.

5. Antwerp announces extra coronavirus restrictions

As Antwerp continues to record climbing coronavirus figures, the city will tighten several of its restrictions from Saturday 25 July, mayor Bart De Wever announced on Wednesday.

In recent days, several experts have called to place (parts of) Antwerp back in lockdown following local outbreaks to stop the virus from spreading further. Read more.

6. Nearly 117,000 breaches of containment measures in Belgium since March

Some 117,000 breaches of coronavirus measures were recorded in the National General Database since 14 March, La Libre Belgique reports on Thursday based on data from the federal police.

This covers various offences ranging from failure to comply with bans on gatherings, distancing measures or opening hours.

The police have issued some 1,400 reports for failure to wear a face mask, which is compulsory on public transport. Read more.

7. King Philippe asked to return the remains of Congo’s murdered PM

In a letter addressed to King Philippe of Belgium, Juliana Lumumba, the daughter of Congo’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba has asked for the return of her father’s “relics”.

“We the children of Lumumba, we the Lumumba family ask for the just return of the relics of Patrice Emery Lumumba to the ground of his ancestors,” said Juliana Lumumba’s letter, which French press agency AFP saw on Tuesday.

With ‘relics’, Juliana Lumumba is likely referring to her father’s teeth and several finger bones, which were kept in the possession of former Belgian chief of police, Gérard Soete, who admitted to assisting in Lumumba’s murder in 1961. Read more.

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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