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Belgium in Brief: How Many Guests Can I Have?

Credit: Public Domain/Mary Anne Fenley/Belga

What a day yesterday was! As expected, shops will be opening with strict measures as of Monday, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

The big topic, of course, is the fact we can now have 4 guests. Kind of.

Casting aside the popularity contests that this will cause – who’ll be the 4 you pick? will they pick you? – the logistical issue of creating a closed circle of people you are allowed to see is already causing people grief. Those who lack an obvious choice – for many, that is family – face the terrifying prospect of selecting friends in an attempt to see another human being.

As it stands, this new social measure will not be subject to police checks and will rely on citizens to enforce the rules themselves. Not only will people be in charge of ensuring their circle remains closed, but also social distancing with the eventual shortlist. Add to all this the looming fear that if Belgium doesn’t progress enough it could delay that start of Phase 2, and you’re all caught up.

As we approach a new normal, let’s take a look at the news from today. Grandparents should not look after their grandchildren just yet, traffic light buttons should be pushed with your elbow and -as always- 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. 98 new hospital admissions, 244 discharged in Belgium

639 additional people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium in the last 24 hours, according to figures by the Federal Public Health Service on Thursday.

This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 51,420. 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.

374 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 157 live in Wallonia, and 101 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 7 other people. Read more.

2. Exit Plan: What having 4 guests actually means

From Sunday 10 May, people will be allowed to receive up to four guests in their homes, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced following the National Security Council on Wednesday.

However, it is not as simple as it may seem at first. Under the new measures, these four guests will always have to be the same ones, and will not be allowed to see anyone else aside from the rest of the group. The circle must remain closed.

“We had to open the door a little bit, but it will always be too little,” said virologist Marc Van Ranst on VRT News. “A further relaxation for social contacts will certainly not happen before 18 May,” he added. Read more.

3. So what is confirmed from Monday (Phase 1B)?

Belgium will go ahead with the next phase of its exit plan out of the lockdown from 11 May as planned, announced Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès during a press conference on Wednesday.

Following a meeting with Belgium’s National Security Council, that started at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, Wilmès announced the country’s next stage, Phase 1B, in its deconfinement strategy.

“Since Monday, Belgium has started easing the confinement measures. However, the measures are still there, and will be for quite some time to come,” said Wilmès, adding that a complete lockdown is not a long-term solution. See the full measures here.

4. So… what could change in Phase 2?

Following Wednesday’s meeting of the Belgian National Security Council, there have been further clarifications on how the exit strategy will progress in the coming stages.

The intricacies of Belgium’s Phase 2, scheduled for 18 May, remain dependent on how the current changes play out. However, it could see a number of much-sought changes being enacted in the country, most notably – a restart to education. Read more.

5. Push traffic light buttons with your elbow, says Mobility Minister

Flemish Minister for Mobility Lydia Peeters launched a campaign for people to push the buttons at traffic lights with their elbows, and not with their hands or fingers.

At the 1,600 intersections on Flemish regional roads with traffic lights managed by the Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV), 4,500 push buttons for pedestrians or cyclists to influence the traffic light regulation can be found.

All these buttons will now receive a sticker that tells people to press the buttons with their elbow instead of their bare hands, to stop the further spread of the coronavirus. Read more.

6. ‘Grandparents should not look after children,’ lockdown exit expert warns

Children should not be dropped off for daycare at their grandparents’ homes, the chair of Belgium’s task for exiting the coronavirus lockdown warned Thursday.

After Belgium’s National Security Council (NSC) said visits to other people’s home would be allowed from Sunday, government experts have spoken out to urge caution when it came to at-risk groups, such as the elderly.

“A visit — a short visit— at a safe distance is really quite different from looking after a grandchild for the whole day,” Erika Vlieghe, an infectious disease expert and chair of Belgium’s Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES), told De Standaard. Read more.

7. Disney+ announces launch date in Belgium

The long-awaited launch of Disney+ in Belgium has been finally announced, with the service confirmed to arrive in 2020.

The entertainment giant’s online hub for streaming almost all of its content will be available in Belgium from September, the company announced through Facebook. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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