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    Belgium in Brief: Singles, Keep Your Distance

    Credit: Belga/Jules Johnston

    Belgium is now looking towards the weekend – especially with the news of a long-awaited meeting that should shed some light on if the lockdown will extend beyond the current deadline.

    So what is the latest in Belgium? Singles are being warned to stay away from each other, figures show Europeans have pretty much stopped moving, and Belgium’s number of infected jumps by 1,298.

    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 6,235 confirmed cases

    1,298 new people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19), confirmed the FPS Public Health during a press conference on Thursday.

    857 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 256 live in Wallonia, and 164 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet 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 6,235. Read more.

    2. Coronavirus: Europe is standing still

    While coronavirus has gripped the world, mobility in many big cities in Europe has almost ground to a halt.

    Citymapper, a public transport app, has created its own index showing the percentage of people moving compared to usual, the Citymapper Mobility Index, by keeping track of movements in major cities. As the data is collected on a daily basis, the impact of the countries’ lockdowns and other measures to contain the virus is very noticeable. Read more.

    3. Coronavirus: Belgium will not take patients from abroad

    Despite requests from other countries to help with rising numbers of infected, Belgium will not take additional coronavirus patients from abroad at this time.

    As more and more states fear that their health care systems will be overwhelmed by the influx of patients, calls for European solidarity have become increasingly urgent. Requests to Belgium from hospitals in the Netherlands and Italy have been refused, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès’ office informed the newspaper ‘De Tijd’. Read more.

    4. Police seek clarification of the rules on outdoor activities

    The federal police has asked the government’s crisis centre for a clearer indication of the rules relating to activities that are allowed to take place outside the home.

    Since the introduction of the lockdown, the general rule is to stay at home, with few exceptions. Most are clear: visit to the doctor or the pharmacy, shopping for food, helping someone who needs it, going to the bank, post office or petrol station.

    And, for those unable to work from home, travelling to and from the workplace.

    There remains the question of exercise, however, and that is where the rules need clarification, police say. Read more.

    5. Seeing if measures are effective ‘takes 8 to 10 days,’ says De Block

    The containment measures should not be tightened to stop the further spread of coronavirus, according to Federal Minister for Public Health Maggie De Block.

    Belgium must keep following the measures that are already in place, as it is still too early to know the evolution of the number of new infections and hospitalisations, De Block said. Read more.

    6. Singles: keep your distance

    The rule of the day may be to maintain a distance of 1.5m from each other, but that hasn’t got in the way of young love, according to Sensoa, the non-profit for sexual health.

    “Every form of sex is ill-advised,” spokesperson Boris Cruyssaert told VRT Radio. “There are still people coming to hospital with new cases of sexually transmitted diseases, and that is worrying.”

    As we have seen since the days of the Montagues and the Capulets, not even an outright ban can do enough to calm the ardour of those experiencing the rising sap of springtime. Especially when the internet and social media are able to come right into the homes of those sitting longingly in isolation. 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. So much so that it stayed in the newsletter for 2 days running in case you missed it. 

    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.

    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