Belgium in Brief: Lockdown Looms Large Amid Changing Measures

Belgium in Brief: Lockdown Looms Large Amid Changing Measures
Credit: Belga

In the less than 2 weeks since Belgium implemented strict new coronavirus fighting measures, a lot has certainly changed, and then changed back, and then changed to a new thing.

Across the country, the latest news has set a new low bar for minimum measures in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. So, how did we get here?

Let's recap.

Less than a week after the initial measures - which had called for a curfew and bar closure among other things -  came into effect, the Consultative Committee gathered once again, this time to focus on rules for sports.

By that evening, Wallonia had announced new - sometimes just adapted - measures to go into force. On Saturday, Brussels followed suit, announcing new measures similar to Wallonia and Belgium but also slightly different.

On Sunday, Flanders said it was not going to change anything. On Monday it faced criticism and by Tuesday night new measures were announced which would go into effect on Friday.

By Wednesday, the rules were happening that night at midnight. Later on Wednesday, Belgium had the new base level for rules that we see today, effectively rendering all previous regional calls semi-redundant... while still allowing regions to add on to the national measures.

Exhausting, and with calls from experts for a lockdown, a new meeting of the committee tomorrow, and neighbouring countries locking down, I fear we're not done.

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. Experts to Belgium: ‘impose new lockdown now’

Experts in Belgium are sounding the alarm and urging government leaders to take the country back into lockdown “now” ahead of a new Consultative Committee meeting on the coronavirus on Friday.

Warning that Belgium’s record-smashing figures and sending it into an “unprecedented tragedy,” experts urged swift and decisive action, with some even saying the situation called for a lockdown “within the hour.” Read more.

2. Cheat Sheet: Belgium’s new minimum measures

Belgium’s latest measures have attempted to bring unity to a country that was starting to approach similar issues in a very different way.

Published yesterday evening, a new ministerial decree which is already in force has set a new minimum requirement for the regions but allows for them to continue to enforce stronger measures as they see fit, for example regarding curfew.

Confused? Read more.

3. Belgium overtakes April's hospitalisation peak

Nearly 6,000 Covid-19 patients are currently admitted to Belgian hospitals, which is more than during the peak in April, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Thursday.

In total, 5,924 coronavirus patients are currently admitted to hospital, about 200 more than the total of 5,759 Covid-19 patients who were in hospital during the peak in April.

Of those patients, 993 are in intensive care, 81 more than yesterday. Patients on a ventilator number 541 – 57 more than yesterday. Read more.

4. Belgium may need international aid as coronavirus hospitalisations surge, epidemiologist warns

Belgium may require to requisition hotels, deploy the army and call for international aid as the coronavirus pandemic continues to push the national health system over the edge of collapse, one epidemiologist said.

“We are going to have to get very creative to limit damages in our hospitals and nursing homes as much as possible,”  epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme, professor of medicine at the University of Antwerp, said. Read More.

5. ‘Four weeks of strict measures will not be enough’, health minister warns

Strict measures to fight the spread of Covid-19 will have to be maintained for longer than a month, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said on Wednesday.

There are four different predictive models, Vandenbroucke explained, each showing slightly different results, “but the common conclusion is that being strict for four weeks will not be enough,” he said on Terzake, a programme on Dutch-speaking television.  Read more.

6. Wallonia threatens regional lockdown if new measures are ‘insufficient’

Belgium’s southern Walloon region said it stands “ready” to go one step further into a lockdown if federal coronavirus measures announced in a key meeting on Friday are too lax or uncoordinated.

“If the measures are seen as insufficient to attain a common goal, this being to bend the curve during this second wave, Wallonia is ready to go further in terms of re-confinement,” Walloon Interior Minister Christophe Collignon said. Read more.

7. Bpost staff urged to try and deliver packages every time

The Belgian postal service Bpost will take tough action to stamp out the problem of people who receive a note saying they were not at home when the mail carrier called, when in fact they were home all the time.

The problem will be familiar to everyone. You’re expecting a delivery, and the only thing you find in your mailbox is a note from the delivery person saying they tried to deliver but you were not at home. Read more.

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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