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    April 1: here’s what changes, seriously

    Capsules containing nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. © Flickr Cpmmons

    The start of April is usually met with all kinds of japes and jests on the part of the media, but this April 1 sees a more serious mood prevail.

    Contraceptives are now free of charge for all women under the age of 25 from today, under a rule passed in February on a proposal by federal health minister Maggie De Block (Open VLD). The morning after pill, as it is known, is free for all woman regardless of age.

    The reimbursement to patients of physiotherapists who are not conventioné, or approved by the social insurance authority Inami, will be cut by 25% from 1 April. The portion of the fee of those professionals paid by the patient therefore increases. The measure affects only just over 15% of all physiotherapists, and patients are advised to check with their regular practitioner.

    The cost of obtaining the registration required to operate a pleasure boat at the coast is reduced from €150 to €30, according to a law passed two years ago and only coming into force now. The new rules also require a link with Belgium, to prevent applications from “often dubious” operators based in other countries, North Sea minister Philippe De Backer (Open VLD) said.

    A measure that would have allowed banks Belfius and BNP Paribas Fortis to increase their tariffs, which should have come into force on April 1, has been postponed until July 1, given the current circumstances.

    The possession and use of laughing gas is now outlawed in the 19 communes of the Brussels region. The gas, also known as nitrous oxide, can be obtained in the form of computer sprays or gas capsules similar to those used for soda siphons. The gas gives an effect of euphoria, but can cause longer-term negative effects.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times