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    Belgium in Brief: Lockdown Phases Out From Monday

    Credit: Belga

    It’s official – lockdown measures will start to lift from Monday (4 May).

    In a statement, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès confirmed that the country will begin the first phase of exiting the lockdown after the weekend.

    In practice, this means that the companies will be allowed to open their doors on 4 May. Public transport will also resume their usual services, but the use of face masks is mandatory. During all phases of the lockdown, people are recommended to use their own means of transport, in order to make room on public transport for the people who need it most.

    Masks, however, continue to be a work in progress. Have you received a face mask yet? Or made your own? Let us know by email or @johnstonjules on Twitter.

    For now, let’s have a look at the news. A 100-year-old Belgian woman beats coronavirus, doctors fear the phasing out of measures, and the 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. 111 new deaths, 178 hospital admissions in Belgium

    660 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 48,519. 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.

    408 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 176 live in Wallonia, and 72 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 4 other people. Read more.

    2. Confirmed: first phase of Belgium’s exit plan starts on Monday

    The current evolution of the coronavirus crisis allows that Belgium’s lockdown measures will be relaxed slightly from 4 May, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès confirmed on Wednesday.

    This means that Phase 1A of the exit plan can start as planned. The Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES) has officially given the green light to move to the next phase on 4 May. Read more.

    3. Belgian train stations to sell face masks from Monday

    People travelling by rail in Belgium will be able to purchase fabric face masks and hydro-alcoholic gel in 80 stations across the country, La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday.

    Snack vending machines will be emptied in favour of the masks and gels. Belgium’s National Railway Company (SNCB) announced the measure at a meeting between management and the company’s trade unions on Tuesday. Read more.

    4. Exit plan: Belgian intensive care doctors fear 4 May

    Intensive care doctors are afraid of what will happen on 4 May, when the first phase of the exit plan out of Belgium’s lockdown will start.

    “If we do not abide by the basic rules, we can get in trouble again very quickly,” said Geert Meyfroidt, professor and intensivist at the university hospital of Leuven, in “Vandaag” (video) on Wednesday, saying that the new coronavirus (Covid-19) could flare up again. Read more.

    5. Why Belgium fails to turn the page in the coronavirus fight

    The number of new daily cases in Belgium has dropped under 1,000 but several hundreds of people continue to be infected every day.

    To start easing the lockdown restrictions from next week, more testing and effective contact tracing is necessary. Belgium is, however, lagging behind with reaching its testing goal and the planned manual contacting system will likely not be in place in time. Read more.

    6. ‘A beacon of hope’: Belgian woman beats coronavirus days after turning 100

    A Walloon woman who recently celebrated her 100th birthday was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday after recovering from the coronavirus.

    Julia Dewilde was released from the Bois de l’Abbaye hospital in Seraing after being admitted there on 10 April with a respiratory infection linked to Covid-19.

    Hospital staff cheered and the press snapped photos as the woman was wheeled out to the entry hall of the hospital, with her recovery hailed as a “beacon of hope” amid the current pandemic. Read more.

    7. Sweden considers launching night train to Brussels

    A night train from Brussels to Sweden could be in store in the future, according to a new study by the Swedish traffic agency.

    Spurred on by interest from the Swedish government in providing more night trains to Europe, one project in consideration could link Malmö and Brussels from 2023.

    The government commissioned a study last year to see whether more night trains from the country are possible, which has proposed a route between Malmö and Brussels, via Cologne, where the initially proposed route was meant to stop. Read more.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times