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    Belgium in Brief: An ‘Almost Criminal’ Leak

    Credit: Rode Kruis Oudenburg - Jabbeke/Facebook/Stock image/Unsplash/Pxhere

    Yesterday was peppered with reports, anger and hope after a leaked document gave an outline of recommendations for easing the lockdown. Ultimately, however, this draft will remain just that – a draft – until any official announcements on Friday.

    We’ll get you that information when we have it.

    So what’s the news? Tests show only 3% of Belgians have immunity to the coronavirus, an Italian newspaper body-shames the Belgian Federal Health Minister, 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.

    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. Coronavirus: 230 new deaths, 211 hospital admissions

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

    This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 42,797. 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.

    386 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 342 live in Wallonia, and 116 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 64 other people. Read more.

    2. Only 3% have coronavirus immunity, tests show

    Only three in a hundred people in Belgium have developed immunity to coronavirus, according to a study carried out by the University of Antwerp.

    The study gathered more than 3,600 blood samples that had been given by patients for all kinds of other reasons and tested them for the presence of antibodies.

    When a person is infected by a pathogen, the body creates cells which are specific to the infection which are used to fight off the bacteria or virus in question. Read more.

    3. Italian newspaper criticised for body-shaming Maggie De Block

    An Italian newspaper is under fire after it made comments about the weight of Belgian Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block.

    The Italian newspaper Affari Italiani published an article with the headline “Coronavirus, Belgium changes how it will count deaths, decides Maggie: minister of 140 kg” on Friday. The article itself again focused on De Block’s weight.

    The newspaper received a lot of criticism on social media, mainly on Twitter, calling the article “shameful” and saying that “the physical form of a minister has nothing to do with their policy.” Read more.

    4. Hotel Metropole faces closure with loss of 129 jobs

    The Hotel Metropole, the iconic hotel on Place De Brouckère in central Brussels, is on the verge of closing with the loss of 129 jobs, management said.

    In a statement given to Bruzz, the hotel said, “Due to the structural difficulties of the past five years and the current economic situation, we no longer have the necessary financial resources to guarantee the continuation of our hotel activity. We are now considering stopping everything permanently.”

    The Metropole dates back to 1895, and remains in the hands of family shareholders. It is the only five-star hotel in the capital that does not belong to an international chain. Read more.

    5. Van Ranst: whoever leaked lockdown recommendations is ‘playing with people’s lives’

    Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst has expressed his anger after a draft proposal of experts’ advice for leaving the lockdown was widely shared in the country.

    First published by Le Soir, then widely spread by the Belga News Agency, the leak provided details of the recommendations included in a draft by the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES). On Friday, the National Security Council will meet again to discuss the next phase of the lockdown.

    The report, which recommended a partial reopening of businesses and shops from 4 May and a return to school from 18 May, is only a draft version, Van Ranst stressed to VRT, who also called the leak “irresponsible, reprehensible and almost criminal.” Read more.

    6. Faeces smeared on cars of health care workers

    The car of a health care worker was smeared with human excrements in the municipality of Oudenburg in the West-Flanders province, the latest in several reported incidents in Belgium.

    On Monday night, a car from an AZ Damiaan Oostende healthcare worker was targeted. All the windows and door handles of the car were stained. The night before, two other cars from people working at the Red Cross had also been targeted.

    “Someone is targeting care workers, although I really cannot understand the motivation,” said Thibo Bral, secretary of the Red Cross Oudenburg-Jabbeke on Radio 2. “Care workers are the people who are holding up the health care system at this moment, during the coronavirus crisis,” he added. Read more.

    7. Animal hotels and shelters can reopen

    Animal shelters and hotels can now reopen to members of the public, according to an update of the coronavirus guidelines from the National Crisis Centre.

    Organisations running an animal refuge are allowed to receive people who wish to adopt a pet or give theirs up for adoption on an appointment basis.

    Volunteers were also allowed to help in the shelters again and the centre said that refuges that open their doors must follow social-distancing rules as much as possible. Read more.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times