Belgium in Brief: 1 Month On Lockdown

Belgium in Brief: 1 Month On Lockdown
Credit; Belga/Atomium/Facebook

Has it really been a month since we started the Belgian lockdown? Apparently so.

Across Europe, different countries are beginning to work out potential exit strategies from their current lockdown measures, but for Belgium, this will be the week where the decisions are made on how the country could begin to scale things down, and if the deadline will be extended.

So what else is going on? We recap what has changed in a month, tensions soar after a teen died fleeing a coronavirus check, and the latest figures in Belgium.

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.

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1. Belgium reaches 31,119 confirmed cases

530 new people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium, confirmed the Federal Public Health Service during a press conference on Tuesday.

332 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 129 live in Wallonia, and 62 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 7 other people. The total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 31,119. Read more.

2. One month on: light at the end of the tunnel?

Today marks exactly one month since the first measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus came into force in Belgium, with the forced closure of bars and restaurants, and non-essential shops closed at weekends.

One month later, over 30,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus, and the cumulative death toll since the start of the outbreak has surpassed 4,000, the vast majority aged over 65, and almost half in care homes.

Today, a committee set up to plan for the days when the country is no longer in confinement will deliver its first report to the government, which meets tomorrow. What is it likely to say? Read more.

3. Atomium says ‘thank you’ to all Belgians

On top of the Atomium building in Brussels, a ‘Thank you’ flag has been raised in solidarity with all Belgians because of the coronavirus.

Since the beginning of the lockdown measures, thousands of little lights have been blinking and shining at the Atomium every evening at 8:00 PM, to thank all health care workers.

The flag says thank you in French (‘Merci’), Dutch (‘Danku’) and German (‘Danke’). By hoisting the flag 100 metres high, the Atomium wants to highlight the support, solidarity and gratitude of all Belgians to the medical staff and nurses. Read more.

4. Coronavirus: some news to raise the spirits

It’s Easter, and traditionally the time for good news, even in these coronavirus times. From Brussels Airlines cleaning planes, baby animals and voucher schemes to promote local businesses, we've got some good news for you. Read more.

5. Coronavirus: tensions soar over teen’s death in police check

A police decision to engage in a car chase in which a Brussels teen was killed certainly warrants some questioning, a member of Brussels’ executive cabinet said, prompting backlash from police unions.

Brussels Secretary of State Pascal Smet took to social media to say there were “certainly a number of questions to ask” after a 19-year-old, identified as Adil, died when his scooter collided head-on with a police vehicle as he attempted to flee a police check. Read more.

6. Easter weekend draws dozens to Flemish outdoors despite lockdown

The Easter weekend saw dozens of people in Flanders come out to enjoy the good weather, with several police zones reporting a rise in lockdown violations.

Queues were reported outside ice cream shops throughout Flanders, including in Kortrijk and in Lanaken, a town in Limburg, one of Belgium’s hardest-hit provinces.

“I have the subjective impression that I see more people on the street, and that they are getting closer,” said one commenter. “I hope that we will not see the consequences of this in the foreseeable future.” Read more.

7. Withholding tax and VAT deadline extended

Finance Minister Alexander De Croo has ordered the Federal Public Service for Finance to grant an additional deferral for the payment of withholding tax and VAT for the month of April, the minister’s office said Tuesday.

There had already been a deferral for March, which created a liquidity cushion of €4.5 billion for the self-employed and companies. Read more.

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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