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    Belgium in Brief: Don’t Book A Flight Yet

    Credit: Belga

    As we have somehow made it past the middle point in 2020, the summer holidays have officially begun.

    However, while summer holidays usually mean time to travel, this year might turn out a little different than originally planned for many people in Belgium.

    Even though the EU has white-listed 14 countries (and China, if they reciprocate) whose citizens are allowed to enter, Belgium’s Minister for Foreign Affairs made it clear that borders will not reopen before 7 July.

    On top of that, even if non-Europeans are allowed in from then, it is not certain this will be the case for everyone on the EU’s list.

    Not only is this uncertainly making it very difficult for travellers who do not know if they can book trips, it is also causing a lot of issues at airlines and airports, as they have to try to keep up with the constantly changing regulations, resulting in tens of thousands of cancelled, postponed and rebooked flights.

    So, what else is happening? The number of people with Covid-19 antibodies in Belgium has gone down, health experts are not happy with the border reopening, and something to lift your spirits.

    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:



    1. Thousands of flights cancelled as Brussels Airlines adjusts schedule

    Brussels Airlines had to rebook tens of thousands of flights that had suddenly been cancelled or postponed as a result of the changing travel regulations.

    On Monday, Brussels Airlines announced an adjusted flight schedule for the months of September and October. The initial schedule had been drawn up months ago, before the coronavirus crisis started.

    “This means that all original flights were cancelled, and that we are trying to book as many passengers as possible to an alternative flight,” said Maaike Andries, spokesperson for Brussels Airlines. Read more.

    2. Belgian border closed to non-Europeans until 7 July

    Credit: Belga

    Belgium will not open its borders to travellers from the 15 white-listed countries before 7 July, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Philippe Goffin.

    The preparations for the borders to reopen safely will take “at least until 7 July,” Goffin said on Wednesday.

    On Tuesday, the EU recommended its member states to start lifting the travel restrictions for the citizens of 15 countries, whose inhabitants would again be allowed to make non-essential trips to the EU from 1 July. Read more.

    However, even if the borders reopen from 7 July, it is still not certain that Belgium will entirely follow the EU recommendations. Read more about that here.

    3. Coronavirus: Belgium averages 84 new infections per day

    An average of 84.7 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium, according to figures by the Federal Public Health Service on Thursday.

    The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 61,598. 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.

    Of those infections, 34,653 (56%) were registered in Flanders, 19,491 (32%) in Wallonia, and 6,395 (10%) in Brussels. Data on the place of residence were not available for 1,059 cases (2%). Read More.

    4. Virologists ‘not thrilled’ about EU border reopening

    The idea of allowing foreign travellers back into the EU this summer is risky and anything but “thrilling” to health experts, state virologist Marc Van Ranst said.

    “It’s clear that virologists are not thrilled with the idea of the EU border reopening,” Van Ranst said. “It constitutes a danger.” He urged those itching to travel this summer to do as he intends to and stay put in their own country. Read More.

    5. Only 5.5% of Belgians have coronavirus antibodies, study shows

    Only 5.5% of Belgians have developed antibodies against the new coronavirus, according to the fourth and latest large serological study by scientists at the University of Antwerp, the VRT and De Standaard reported on Wednesday.

    The presence of antibodies in the blood indicates that a person has been infected with the new coronavirus (Covid-19). If antibodies for a virus stay in the body, the person becomes immune to that virus. In the previous survey, nearly 7% of the population was protected. Read more.

    6. Flixbus launches new routes from Belgium

    From Thursday, long-distance coach operator Flixbus will offer direct trips from Belgium to new destinations in the UK, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy.

    From Thursday, 2 July, Flixbus coaches will connect Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Kortrijk and Ghent to more than 40 European cities, with new destinations in the UK, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy.

    “The current timetable to the Netherlands and France will be intensified, new routes will be added and frequencies on existing routes will be increased,” the company said. Read more.

    7. Brussels Breweries join to turn wasted beer into ‘eau de bière’

    A new launch from four well known Brussels breweries is hoping to show how zero waste the brewing process can be, with the creations of a new Brussels Spirit made from kegs of beer that would have gone to waste during the coronavirus crisis.

    The spirit – named “Smells like Brussels Spirit” – was created from over 1000 litres of beer that had been brewed for the taps of Brussels cafes, which otherwise would have been unsold due to Belgium’s coronavirus lockdown. Read More.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times