School opening: Flemish Minister wants a start date by next week
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    School opening: Flemish Minister wants a start date by next week

    Credit: Belga

    In the latest comment in a day of discussions over the reopening of schools in Belgium, Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts has said he wants to be able to announce a date for the reopening of schools as early as next week.

    Speaking to the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday, Weyts added that he also intends to consult as much as possible with the other Communities on the subject.

    “If we could agree on a date, that would be good,” he said. As for the practical measures, they can be coordinated from one community to another, and all schools do not have to open on the same day, Weyts added.

    “We’re thinking of starting again with primary education first. In young children, social distancing is more difficult to ensure. It is easier for secondary school students to stay at home alone,” he added.

    Something will happen in May

    This announcement follows comments by Minister-President of Wallonia, Elio Di Rupo who said that while ‘something will happen with the schools in May,’ it was not a decision to be made during
    the National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday.

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    However, upon entering the meeting, Di Rupo elaborated that “we must first listen to the recommendations of experts, and then what parents, teachers and trade unions say before taking any decision.”

    The priority today “will be to give clear information to citizens about the extension of the containment measures.” he added.

    Extended Lockdown

    Belgium will extend its lockdown deadline until 3 May in the fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19), announced Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès during a press conference on Wednesday.

    On Tuesday, the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES), which has to ease the country out of the lockdown, handed over its first report to the government. Following that report, and a meeting with Belgium’s National Security Council, joined by the country regions’ Minister-Presidents, Wilmès announced Belgium’s new shutdown deadline, and clarified several other measures.

    The meeting comes amid reports suggesting that residents in Belgium are starting to be less observant of the lockdown measures, with transport companies reporting a rise in suspected non-essential travels, and police reporting a rise in lockdown violations.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times