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    Belgium in Brief: ‘It’s a crisis, not a holiday’

    Credit: Jules Johnston/Belga

    The first day of Belgium’s lockdown has shown a city in two minds. While the city centre of Brussels was eerily quiet – and the European zone deserted – criticism has been levelled at residents who flocked to the park to enjoy the nice weather.

    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. Belgium reaches 1,795 confirmed cases

    309 new people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19), confirmed the FPS Public Health during a press conference on Thursday.

    145 of the newly infected people live in Flanders, 95 live in Wallonia, and 48 live in Brussels. The FPS does not have further information on the place of residence of 21 other people. The total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 1,795.  Read more.

    2. In Photos: Brussels locked down

    For large parts of Brussels, the city was uncharacteristically calm as the city settled into day one of the relative lockdown. Tourist destinations and hubs of European policy lay almost deserted as the majority of people opted to take the advice to work from home. See some photos here.

    3. Brussels doctor lashes out at park dwellers

    A doctor in Brussels said she was “dumbfounded” at seeing people laying around in parks despite strict confinement measures against the coronavirus pandemic, urging them to stop treating the shutdown as a “holiday.” Read more.

    4. In practice, what do Belgium’s shutdown measures mean?

    People have to stay at home as much as possible and avoid contact with other people. However, as the government has not called for an all-out lockdown, the grey zone between what is and what isn’t allowed is causing a lot of confusion for many people. Here are the answers to some of the often-asked questions.

    5. Panic buying and lockdown hit the poor hardest

    The stripping clean of supermarket shelves by a wave of panic buying is depriving food banks of one of the sources of their supplies, the VRT reports.

    In normal circumstances, supermarkets donate unsold products approaching their sell-by dates to local food banks, where they can be distributed to the poor. But as supermarkets face the phenomenon of panic buying – despite there being more than adequate provision further up the supply chain – there is little or nothing left to donate. Read more.

    6. Brussels hospital calls for donations to buy life-saving ventilators

    One of Belgium’s best-equipped hospitals to treat patients infected with coronavirus has launched a call for donations to buy life-saving ventilators.

    “Our hospital is making preparations to go through a long crisis,” Saint-Pierre Hospital in Brussels wrote in a statement. “We need to obtain additional medical equipment, including around a dozen ventilators.” Read more.

    7. Belgians can still get their fries

    It’s the news everyone was waiting for: Frites shops with takeaway services are allowed to stay open as long as they respect the social distancing rules in light of the coronavirus epidemic, despite the new far-reaching measures. Read more.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times