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Belgium in Brief: The Week of Truth

Credit: Wikipedia/Manu_Malbrain/Twitter/Belga

The warm weather – one of the strange moments of lockdown – has seemingly passed, and people have retreated from their terraces and balconies.

To kick off with a positive, news broke in the past 24h of a coronavirus patient in Brussels recovering sufficiently to be taken off an artificial respirator and leave the ICU, even as Belgium braces for a ‘week of truth‘.

So what is the latest in Belgium? KU Leuven has dropped rent costs on student accommodation, a Belgian app is trying to help facilitate social distancing when people go to supermarkets, and – as always – we have 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. Belgium reaches 12,775 confirmed cases

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

467 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 203 live in Wallonia, and 189 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 17 other people. The total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 12,775. Read more.

2. Comparing Belgium’s coronavirus and Spanish flu measures

The current lockdown isn’t the first time Belgium has been on lockdown due to a rapidly spreading infection. What’s unusual, however, is how similar the measures have been.

A poster preserved by the State Archives shows that the measures taken on 4 November 1918 to contain the spread of the Spanish flu in Belgium were very similar to those being taken in the fight against the coronavirus today. Read more.

3. Over a third of Brussels nursing homes hit by coronavirus

Over a third of all nursing homes in Brussels has been affected by coronavirus, the cabinet of Brussels Health Minister Alain Maron said.

The 146 nursing homes in the regional territory are required to report to authorities any suspected Covid-19 cases among staff or residents.

“42 residents have tested positive and another 218 are suspected to be infected,” cabinet staff member Miguel Lardinois said, adding that around half of them had been hospitalised. Read more.

4. KU Leuven reduces rent on student rooms by 50%

The KU Leuven has announced that it will reduce the rent of student rooms in residences managed by the university by 50% for April, to ease pressures caused by the ongoing crisis.

As universities have decided to only give online classes until the end of the school year, and the government has extended its lockdown measures for at least two more weeks, many students usually living in a student room have returned home for the rest of the semester, leaving their rooms empty. Read more.

5. Belgian app aids socially distant shopping

A Belgian mobile application to check the number of people in nearby grocery stores to avoid queues and groups when shopping was made available on Monday.

The app, Shop Safe, indicates whether a shop is “quiet”, “normal”, “busy” or “too busy”, based on its users’ location data and that of Belgian telecom operators. It also provides information about the supply of particular products. Read more.

6. Garbage collection interrupted for 3 days

Yellow and blue garbage bags have not been collected this week in certain parts of Brussels, and will not be for the remainder of the week, service provider Bruxelles Propreté announced.

While white, orange and green bags will still be collected as usual, citizens have been asked to not put out their blue and yellow bags. Read more.

7. How Brussels sharing mobility is helping health care staff

Brussels sharing mobility operators are being praised for showing solidarity with health care personnel and people working in essential sectors

If the coronavirus crisis underlines one thing, it is the importance of the transport and logistics sector, according to the operators of Scooty, Billy Bike, Swapfiets, Felyx, Dott, Urbike and Molenbike.

“In this difficult period, the Brussels entrepreneurs are showing their most creative side as well as their solidarity,” said Brussels Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt in a press release. “Their efforts ensure that the city can continue to function and that the most essential services continue to be guaranteed. I would, therefore, like to thank them warmly for their efforts and their solidarity,” she added. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times