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    Belgium in Brief: Losing Faith

    Credit: Jules Johnston/Belga

    As we approach Ascension day in Belgium – it’s tomorrow, in case you missed it – we also approach the first holiday in a while where people can actually do what people normally do.

    Day trips – to zoos, museums or certain national parks – are allowed, but more general excursions still remain banned. Shopping – providing places are open – will also remain allowed, as long as measures are followed.

    In terms of grand trends, or big announcements in the country, that’s it – but the news across the country moves on. Drug trials begin on 50 Covid-19 patients in Belgium, people prove to mostly want to follow rules on public transport and the daily press conference reports infection and death numbers both sit under 100.

    With so much information, and so little time to catch up before it potentially changes again, here are some of the top stories from around the country to get you up to speed.

    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:

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    1. 42 new deaths, 58 hospital admissions in Belgium

    192 additional people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium, confirmed the Federal Public Health Service during a press conference on Wednesday.

    This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 55,983. The total reflects all people in Belgium 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.

    117 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 57 live in Wallonia, and 18 live in Brussels. “The trend of new infections is still decreasing, by about 4% per day over the last 7 days,” said professor Steven Van Gucht. Read more.

    2. Coronavirus measures losing support

    While the government’s measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus are still being widely observed, support for the government’s approach to the issue is going down, according to a poll carried out for the VRT and De Standaard.

    The poll suggests the population is doing what the government says, but is less than impressed by how they are handling the crisis.

    Asked how well the federal government was performing, between taking the necessary measures and communicating the reasons to the public, 58% rated them from very bad through somewhat bad to ‘neither good nor bad’. A mere 5% voted the government ‘very good’, with ‘rather good’ scoring 36%. Read more.

    3. Belgium begins new drug trials on 50 Covid-19 patients

    A clinical trial for a drug with the potential to treat one of the symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus will begin in Belgium on Wednesday.

    French biotechnology company Biophytis got the green light from the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products in Belgium to test their medicine Sarconeos. Read more.

    4. Health experts underestimated coronavirus in February

    European health experts underestimated the risk of the new coronavirus at a meeting on 18 February, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

    The Spanish newspaper said it had consulted the minutes of an advisory board meeting of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

    The ECDC is responsible for ensuring “early detection and analysis of emerging threats to the EU” and “helping EU countries to prepare for epidemics.” Read More.

    5. Social agreement reached with service-cheques sector

    The social partners – employers and unions – have reached an agreement on a pay increase for those working in the service-cheques sector.

    The agreement comes into force immediately, after negotiations that went on for more than a year. The main provision is a pay increase of 0.8% on top of an indexation increase of 2%, backdated to the beginning of the year. Read More

    6. Coronavirus: One in four intensive care patients did not survive

    Almost one in four of all patients suffering from the coronavirus infection and taken into intensive care (ICU) died in hospital, according to an informal survey carried out by De Standaard.

    The newspaper called nine Flemish hospitals, including the hospital of the Free University of Brussels, (VUB), to find out the rate of fatalities among ICU patients. The intention was to compare Belgium’s figures against a report that in China, 97% of ICU patients did not survive, and half of all ICU patients in the United Kingdom.

    From the responses – which are admittedly partial – it appears that 23% of ICU patients died, compared to only 11% of those admitted to hospital but not to ICU. Read more.

    7. Most people follow rules on Brussels public transport

    Only 25 official reports were drawn up for people not wearing a face mask on STIB’s metros, trams and buses or in the stations last week, according to the Brussels public transport company.

    The obligation to wear a face mask, or something else covering both nose and mouth, for everyone age 12 and older on public transport is generally well-respected in Brussels, Renaud de Saint Moulin of STIB told the Mobility Commission of the Brussels Parliament. Read More.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times