How Belgium has rallied against the coronavirus pandemic
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    How Belgium has rallied against the coronavirus pandemic

    © Belga

    As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage through Europe, Belgium and its citizens have rallied against the deadly virus, bringing much-needed relief to front line respondents.

    According to the latest count on Wednesday, around a thousand new confirmed infections has brought the number of confirmed cases of the virus in Belgium to 13,964.

    Officials have said that citizens’ observance of the lockdown measures saw prediction models advance that the outbreak could peak in Belgium at the start of April.

    As the government scrambles to contain the economic blow of the pandemic, citizens and businesses have moved to boost the country’s response to the outbreak.

    Millions of euros donated to key Brussels hospital

    Hôpital Saint-Pierre in Brussels said it received between €2 to €3 million in donations from the public two weeks after it launched a public appeal for donations to buy ventilators.

    “We cannot yet communicate an exact amount, because it often concerns payment promises,” hospital director Philippe Leroy told Bruzz.

    In its appeal launched 19 March, the hospital said it needed to buy around a dozen ventilators and to expand its intensive care unit at an estimated cost of around €500,000.

    The hospital is one of Belgium’s best-equipped facilities for treating highly-infectious diseases, and had initially been designated as one of the reference hospitals for treating Covid-19 patients.

    Unused building in Mechelen turned into transitional care centre

    The Flemish city of Mechelen will transform a hospital building in disuse into a care centre for recovering Covid-19 patients who do not have access to adequate support.

    The centre will host patients who have been discharged from the hospital but who still require care and it will also be open to homeless or marginalised people.

    It will be set up in a building which has been empty since 2018 and will have a capacity of 50 rooms which the mayor said could be enlarged to 90.

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    Walloon company to produce millions of mouth masks

    The Walloon government will provide financial support to a regional company to produce millions of medical mouth masks in an effort to reduce Belgium’s dependence on overseas production.

    A sharp plunged in global stocks of mouth masks and other protective medical equipment has seen hospitals sound the alarm over the lack of protective gear for staff treating Covid-19 patients.

    The Belgian government has also faced backlash for failing to replace a strategic stock of protective face masks before the coronavirus pandemic broke out.

    Deltrian, which produces industrial air filtering equipment, is aiming to begin production in a site near Charleroi by late May, L’Echo reports.

    The company will aim to produce up to 30 million medical masks per year as well as to launch an operation to sterilised used FFP2 filter face masks.

    Thousands volunteer for medical support in Flanders

    Thousands of people in Flanders have responded to calls to volunteer for medical reserve teams launched by the government and by the Red Cross.

    The Flemish government launched an appeal for volunteers in order to have a back-up contingent at the ready, to which officials said some 2,500 people had responded.

    Red Cross Flanders also said that over 2,800 volunteers had signed up with them in recent weeks as part of teams to carry out logistics and support tasks in residential centres.

    The volunteers are needed to prepare and distribute meals, make beds and help residents use apps and devices to keep in touch with family during isolation.

    But as hospitals feel the strain of waves of new hospitalisations daily, citizens across the country have stepped up to provide help across a range of fronts.

    Army lends out ventilators

    Two army ventilators have been lent to a hospital in Hasselt, in Limburg, the Belgian province with the highest number of coronavirus cases.

    The ventilators are usually employed during foreign missions by the army but have been provided for the hospital to use on Covid-19 patients.

    “We received these two fans on a temporary loan from the Defense (…) they are very valuable,” doctor Pascal Vranckx told De Standaard. “After all, we prefer transporting devices than patients.”

    In daily epidemiological reports by federal health officials, the province of Limburg has consistently come out as the hardest-hit in Belgium, and has already begun dispatching patients to other hospitals due to a lack of space.

    Breweries move from booze to sanitisers

    Breweries, distilleries and other recognised alcohol-makers are set to start producing alcohol-based sanitising products, such as hand gel, as stocks plunge amid the pandemic.

    In an effort to replenish dwindling stocks and skyrocketing prices, the government updated regulations to give the companies the green-light to produce hand sanitisers.

    The rule revamp saw at least three Belgian distilleries announce they would be making the swap as well as a sugar refinery company, since the rule change also included other companies in the food industry.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times