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Belgium in Brief: Taking Stock Of The Situation

Credit: Belga/Studio Digital Records Belgium

Belgium has “a long process of reconstruction ahead of us,” according to the latest from Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, who spoke to the country on Sunday evening. There’s not much more to add to that, but as we’re all on lockdown in some capacity, it’s worth remembering that the country is reporting progress.

So what is the latest in Belgium? Testing capacity tops 10,000 per day, Festivals face cancellation, and – as always – we have the latest figures as they pass 20,000.

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 20,814 confirmed cases

1,123 new people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19), confirmed the FPS Public Health during a press conference on Monday.

686 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 262 live in Wallonia, and 137 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 38 other people. The total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 20,814. Read more.

2. Belgians “persevere, more than ever”

As Belgium passed into the second period of confinement, scheduled now to last until April 19 at least, prime minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) made a televised address to the nation, stressing that the road ahead would still be long and hard.

Wilmès was speaking on the day when, for the first time since the coronavirus made an appearance, the number of people discharged from hospital in the past 24 hours exceeded the number of those admitted with the virus. Read more.

3. Wearing a mask not yet necessary says Belgium’s Health Minister

Wearing a mouth mask when going out in public is not necessary during this period of confinement, Belgium’s Health Minister Maggie De Block said on Sunday.

However, the decision to advise the public to wear a mouth mask at a later deconfinement phase could still be taken. Read more.

4. Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter will ‘probably’ be cancelled

Expectations are high that Belgium’s National Security Council will “probably” announce the cancellation of the big summer festivals such as Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter because of coronavirus.

This follows the news that the mayors of the municipalities where Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter take place have asked to not let the big festivals, attended by people from all over the world, take place like usual. Read more.

5. Families look to courts over relatives’ access to intensive care

Doctors in Liège are facing legal proceedings as families look to the courts over conflicts surrounding access to hospitals’ strained intensive care units (ICU).

The coronavirus pandemic has hiked the pressure on hospitals as medical staff try to cope with surging hospitalisation rates and not enough available beds or resources. Read more.

6. Brussels Airlines won’t fly again until 15 May

The airline has officially extended the date at which it aims to get planes back in the air, a fundamental shift for not only travellers, but also the staff.

This extension means that the temporary lay-off of the 4,200 employees will also be extended, with the exception of those employed on repatriation flights, fleet maintenance or preparing for the restart of operations. Read more.

7. Testing capacity tops 10,000 per day in Belgium

The rate at which Belgium is able to conduct new coronavirus tests each day has more than doubled in one week and now tops 10,000, the Office of Minister Philippe De Backer announced on Saturday.

“Testing capacity is now over 10,000 tests per day in Belgium,” the minister’s office said, recalling that last week’s average varied between 3,500 and 4,000 tests per day. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times