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    Belgium in Brief: The Longest Week

    Credit: Jules Johnston/Belga

    As Belgium hits a week in lockdown, the general apathy that can settle around any topic has hit – we’ve noticed – but we’re still here making sure you know the news from today.

    So what is the latest in Belgium? We’ve got a roundup of what has happened since the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit the country, a priest trying to make the best of a bad situation, and the latest figures.

    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. Coronavirus: Belgium reaches 4,937 confirmed cases

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

    429 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 176 live in Wallonia, and 57 live in Brussels. The FPS does not have further information on the place of residence of 6 other people. The total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 4,937. Read more.

    2. Will coronavirus measures be extended beyond 5 April?

    Currently, the Belgian measures are in force until 5 April, but many people are wondering whether they will be extended, with government officials even saying that it is “unlikely” that the lockdown will be lifted.

    We tried to streamline the arguments because right now nobody seems to know. Read more.

    3. Masks made available by prescription only

    Mouth masks and hydro-alcoholic gel, which is often used in hand sanitisers, will only be available by prescription, according to a Ministerial Order.

    Masks and hydro-alcoholic gels, as well as five other protection and disinfection products, are now available only by prescription, according to an Order from the Ministry of Economy published on 23 March. Read more.

    4. Belgian priest lights lockdown candles for e-pilgrims

    A Belgian priest has been trying his hardest to accommodate for the difficulties posed to those who want to burn a candle in these difficult times.

    Burning a candle for a loved one at the Basilica of Scherpenheuvel – a town in the province of Flemish Brabant – is a long-standing tradition. However, due to strict coronavirus lockdown measures, pilgrims are not allowed to visit for the time being. Read more.

    5. Hair today, gone tomorrow

    After it was initially decided that hairdressers had to stay open during Belgium’s shutdown because of coronavirus, the National Security Council decided to close the salons from Wednesday.

    After Belgium’s shutdown measures were announced last week, hairdressers were angry and said they were faced with the choice “between cholera and the plague” – either to close down without the compensation available to others, or to carry on with major risk to the health of customers, staff and themselves. Read more.

    6. Ignoring coronavirus measures will cost at least €250

    Anyone not complying with the federal government’s measures imposed to combat the further spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) risks having to pay at least €250.

    People who get together, make non-essential travel plans, organise or take part in a party or joint sports activity will get an official report and be proposed to pay an amicable settlement of €250. Commercial establishments, such as cafés or non-food shops, which are still open despite the ban, will be offered an amicable settlement of €750. Read more.

    7. One week into lockdown: how has the coronavirus spread in Belgium?

    It’s a long read, but it would be time spent to get you up to speed.

    Three weeks after Belgium was hit by the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on 1 March, hundreds of new cases continue to be detected daily, with Flanders emerging as the country’s epicentre for the outbreak, accounting for over half of the total 4,269 cases.

    While Belgium is still not carrying out systematic testing, which some experts have said could help stem the outbreak faster by weeding out asymptomatic cases, between 2,000 and 2,500 tests are carried out every day, with 30,000 patients tested as of Monday. Read more.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times