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Belgium in Brief: Back To School?

Credit: Belga/Dirk Waem/Creative Commons 0

Technically, this should be a back to school message. Of course, for many of us, much hasn’t changed yet.

This is already shaping up to be a week of change, following the announcement that other European countries are beginning to soften measures – and calls from within Belgium to do the same.

So what’s the latest news? Garden centres reopen, returning to school and weddings dominate debate, and Belgium’s 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 39,983 confirmed cases

1,487 new people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium, confirmed the Federal Public Health Service during a press conference on Monday.

This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 39,983. The total reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died from the consequences of the virus.

550 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 693 live in Wallonia, and 238 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 6 other people. Read more.

2. Garden and DIY shops reopen as Belgium loosens lockdown

A decree published at the weekend has provided more clarity for shops, hotels, and outdoor activities after authorities decided to partially relax the lockdown measures last week.

Published in the Official Journal of Belgium, the ministerial decree followed a decision by the National Security Council (NSC) to allow a certain number of shops to open from Monday.

Home improvement shops that mainly sell building tools and materials, garden shops mainly selling plants and trees and bulk shops for professional retailers were added to the list of shops that can reopen. Read more.

3. Belgium needs a clear exit plan quickly

For the recovery of the economy, Belgium has to prepare “a comprehensive exit plan” from the containment because of the coronavirus quickly, said Bart De Wever.

De Wever, leader of the rightwing N-VA party, hopes that the National Security Council and the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES) will come up with clear guidelines and decisions on Friday, as there is a “grey zone” now, according to him.

“Smart countries are winning the future today,” said De Wever on Radio 1 on Monday, pointing to countries like Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, which are already further ahead in their exit strategy. “It is high time, we are running behind our neighbouring countries,” he added. Read more.

4. Ministers consider a possible return to school

A virtual meeting will take place today led by the minister of education for the French Community Caroline Désir (PS), and bringing together teaching unions, school authorities and parents.

On the agenda: What to do with schools and schoolchildren now that the Easter holiday is over, and there are still ten weeks left before the start of the summer vacation. Read more.

5. More clarity expected on summer weddings on Friday

Federal Interior Minister Pieter De Crem has said a meeting of the National Security Council on Friday will bring clarity on whether weddings planned for the summer can still go forward.

This notification follows concerns from the industry, who saw the banning of mass events until the end of August as unclear. This lack of clarity regarding what types of events were counted as a mass gathering left event organisers and some local authorities in the dark. Read that here.

6. 40% of workers won’t change jobs in crisis

The ongoing coronavirus crisis is significantly stalling worker mobility, with 40% not planning to change jobs even if an opportunity arose, a jump when compared to 26% last year and only 10% five years ago.

“We have moved from job mobility to job immobility, but that doesn’t mean that workers are not ready to take on new assignments or new tasks within their company,” explained Nele Ronsmans, senior consultant at Acerta. Read more.

7. McDonald’s partially reopens in Belgium

Starting from Tuesday, the fast-food giant will reopen its drive-throughs, meaning that 68 of the 87 restaurants in Belgium should be able to serve customers.

Orders will be handled with additional safety measures, and customers will be asked to pay contactless or electronic where possible. Inside the stores, social distancing will be put into effect for all staff, and employees will be given a personal mouth mask and gloves.

Stores – which will be open from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM – will offer a temporary, simplified menu to minimise the number of people present on the work floor at the same time. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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