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    Belgium in Brief: Rules For A New Normal

    Credit: Public domain/EU/Jules Johnston/The Brussels Times

    A new normal is a fairly inoffensive phrase, that over time has come to define everything that people are hoping for in the coming months. As we close up our last week of “full” lockdown, the new normal is what stretches out ahead of us.

    Shops, stores, bars, weddings, funerals and more. We are waiting for Belgium to tell us what will become the life we have to adapt to, as the country realises things need to change, both economically and socially.

    That, in essence, is the main part of the news today. The Commission prepares to bring back staff, stores push out rules 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. 107 new deaths, 108 hospital admissions in Belgium

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

    This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 52,011. 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.

    362 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 143 live in Wallonia, and 57 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 29 other people. “The trend of new infections is still decreasing, by about 5% per day over the last 7 days,” said professor Steven Van Gucht. Read more.

    2. European Commission plans return to a new normal in Brussels

    Belgium and most other EU member states have started to lift the lockdown restrictions in a number of phases.

    The European Commission is planning the same for its staff that have been teleworking since 16 March.

    The Commission’s joint road-map towards a common lifting of the measures states that the decisions should be based on epidemiological and economic indicators. As regards its own staff, the Commission relies mainly on the assessments of the host countries. Read more.

    3. Experts and politicians to take part in live ‘corona debate’

    Belgian broadcasters have set up a live debate which will see a group of experts and federal ministers discuss the impacts of the new coronavirus.

    The debate is set to be live-streamed online on Saturday morning on the sites of public Dutch-language broadcaster VRT and its commercial counterpart VTM, and will last two hours, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

    Dubbed the ‘Coronadebate,’ the event will include experts with the government’s coronavirus and lockdown exit task forces and the federal ministers who have been involved in handling the crisis. Read More.

    4. Shopping centre rules for the new normal

    Shopping centres in Belgium are preparing for the reopening of all stores – and an influx of customers – on Monday with the introduction of several measures to ensure the safety of staff and the public.

    “Customers and shopkeepers will have to take into account a few simple but strict rules, visible on all the information boards and digital screens present in the various centres,” three major shopping centre managers in Belgium said Thursday.

    Several measures have been taken by CEUSTERS, AG Real Estate and Wereldhave Belgium, which together manage 25 shopping centres in Belgium, including City 2 in Brussels. Read more.

    5. Brussels Beer Project invests €6 million in new brewery

    The brewers of the Brussels Beer Project (BBP) are investing €6 million in a new brewery in Anderlecht. The company announced this on Friday.

    The new brewery will have an annual capacity of 35,000 hectolitres and will allow BBP to brew all its beers in Brussels. Currently, BBP has a small brewery in Rue Dansaert, while two-thirds of its production occurs at a partner brewery in Limburg.

    The Dansaert site will be kept for experiments on smaller brews, something which has become a characteristic of the brewery. Read more.

    6. Eco-cheques validity extended for six months

    Thanks to the coronavirus epidemic and the restrictions it has placed on people’s movements and the opening of retail outlets, the government has announced the extension of validity of a range of cheques offered by employers.

    The list includes meal vouchers, eco-cheques, gift vouchers and sport and culture cheques. The order to extend the validity of the cheques was contained in a royal decree published this week.

    The meal vouchers and eco-cheques are issued by employers as an extra benefit for employees, while gift, cultural and sports vouchers are open to the general public and sold by the institution or business concerned. In most cases, those have a validity of one year. Read more.

    7. 75% of working companies broke lockdown measures

    Nearly 75% of companies inspected during Belgium’s lockdown were breaking precautionary rules, Le Soir reported on Friday. 

    When the Belgian government introduced its far-reaching measures to combat the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in March, it stressed that working from home would become the norm. In cases where teleworking would not be possible, the employer would have to comply with all safety regulations.

    Belgium’s labour inspectorate carried out 1,142 remote checks between 23 March and 30 April. Of these checks, 986 (86.34%) involved a visit from the inspectorate.Read more.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times