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Belgium in Brief: Shopping? Join The Queue

Credit; Stock photo/Pexels/Belga

So did you decide to go shopping today? Judging by reports across social media, a lot of people did.

We’re officially in the first week of Belgium’s eased measures, but first, a look at what happened over the weekend. Between claims that there will be no returning to normal, and proclamations from Flanders that lockdown cannot be resumed, it was certainly a busy one.

Casting an eye on today, Ikea, Action and Primark – to name a few – have all seen queues as they open their doors for the first time in a while. Are you out shopping today? Have you seen something unusual or a particularly long queue? Let us know by tweeting @JohnstonJules.

So what else is in the news today? A tornado hits Flanders, a famous Brussels resident officially dons a mask, 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. 62 new deaths, 60 hospital admissions in Belgium

368 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 53,449. 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.

199 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 131 live in Wallonia, and 36 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 2 other people. Read more.

2. 11 May: The ‘new normal’ cheat sheet

As of today, shops throughout Belgium are allowed to reopen again as the country begins to relax certain aspects of the current lockdown.

In light of the changes – and the often confusing information – here is a cheat sheet for the rules you should be following if you set out into the world, and what has opened. Read more.

3. Bart De Wever: second lockdown is not an option

A return to a full lockdown is not an option, even if there is a flare-up in the number of infections by the coronavirus, Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever has insisted.

De Wever, who also presides over the Flemish nationalist party N-VA, was taking part in a live debate organised by the VRT and Het Laatste Nieuws.

“A quarantine is normally a separation from sick people,” he said. “This is the first time that healthy people are being locked up. And we see that the longer that goes on, the more younger people can’t keep up. Of course, there was no other option, because we could not test and track and trace.” Read more.

4. Manneken Pis wears mask in solidarity with Belgians

The Brussels statue of Manneken Pis is wearing a custom-made face mask to show solidarity with the population in the fight against the coronavirus.

The face mask is a gesture of support to all health care workers, the volunteers who work to make masks and protective clothing daily, and the Belgians who are asked to wear a mask as part of the exit strategy, according to the Belga press agency.

In the past days and weeks, Manneken Pis has worn a mask a few times before, but they were put on by people who crawled over the fence. Read more.

5. Flemish pork farmers ask government to freeze pigs as meat market plummets

Pig farmers in Flanders are running out of space for their animals as demand for pork meat slumps as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and a swine flu epidemic, a farmers union said.

The ABSvzw farmers union said that concern was rising among pig growers in Flanders as newborn piglets arrived into their stalls, which were growing increasingly engorged with already fattened hogs that they could not get rid off.

“On our pork farms, companies work with a rotating system in which new piglets are born all the time.” Read more.

6. Maggie De Block: Life may never be the same again

Life may never again be the way it was back in January and February, before the first cases of coronavirus arrived in Belgium, according to federal health minister Maggie De Block.

Speaking on the VRT political programme De Zevende Dag, De Block warned that the relaxation of some of the lockdown measures due to take place this week might give people a reason to think of a return to normality in the near future.

“We’re all now dreaming of normal life,” she said. “But we have to realise that normal life may well never resume as it was.” Read More.

7. New handheld device can detect coronavirus ‘in minutes’

A company in the Netherlands has developed a handheld device capable of detecting the coronavirus within minutes, according to its founders.

Spektrax, a nanotechnology company in Amsterdam, has developed a portable device which can detect the virus in mucous membranes using a chip and a scanner.

Like the PCR tests being widely used by countries to test populations for the virus, the company’s testing protocol starts with a swab sample taken from a patient’s mouth or nose. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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