Belgium in Brief: On To Phase 2?

Belgium in Brief: On To Phase 2?
Credit: Belga/Youtube screengrab

The time has come to announce another meeting of the National Security Council. While it can start to feel like the same news, different day, this meeting will be a look into what’s happening in Belgium’s phase 2 of confinement.

The meeting, as with last week, is set to kick off at 9:00 AM, with a press conference scheduled after. Key points on the agenda are expected to include education, and potential clarity on museums, zoos and markets – that is IF phase 2 is still going ahead on schedule.

When the press conference will be held – something which drew substantial criticism after previous meetings ran late – currently depends on how long the meeting will take.

In other news, queues outside of shops reach epic proportions much to Maggie De Block’s annoyance, beaches could reopen, and less than 50 new hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

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. 65 new deaths, 43 hospital admissions in Belgium

330 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 Tuesday.

This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 53,779. 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.

148 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 155 live in Wallonia, and 25 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 2 other people. Read more.

2. Belgium’s Security Council to discuss exit phase 2 on Wednesday

Belgium’s National Security Council will meet again on Wednesday to discuss the next phase of the country’s exit strategy.

On Wednesday, the Council, joined by the country regions’ Minister Presidents, will likely give the go-ahead for Phase 2, that will start on Monday 18 May, a spokesperson confirmed to The Brussels Times. Read more.

3. Zara, Primark, IKEA: Where Belgians shopped on day one of shop reopening

After a nearly two-month shutdown, all shops in Belgium were allowed to open again on Monday, drawing strings of customers who readily queued up outside storefronts across the country.

Fast fashion and retail shops were one of the main draws for shoppers, with long lines spotted outside stores from clothing chains Zara, Primark or C&A, while discount chain stores like Action and Kruidvat were also popular among customers.

Ikea stores from across Belgium also drew customers in the dozens, with pictures shared by staff unions and users on social media showing people waiting to enter the stores in parking lots spaced out with metal barriers and security tape. Read more.

4. Experiment shows how fast coronavirus spreads at the table

Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst shared a video on Twitter that shows how fast coronavirus particles spread between people sharing a meal at the table.

From Sunday, people are allowed to invite up to four guests into their homes. However, Van Ranst shared a video of a Japanese experiment that shows how fast the virus particles spread between guests sharing a meal. Read more.

5. Shopping queues ‘not very encouraging,’ fears De Block

“It is not very encouraging for a second phase,” sighed Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block on Monday, as she watched images of queues forming early Monday morning in front of large commercial signs.

The minister repeated her call to use “common sense” as the deconfinement continues. “What is so important that cannot wait a few days? The rule is that if you see too many people, you go home. I don’t see why we have to sit in a parking lot for hours. Use your common sense: if you see too many people, go home,” De Block explained. Read more.

6. Belgian Mayors agree to phased reopening of beaches, despite grievances

The mayors of Belgium’s coastal municipalities will follow the guidelines of the National Security Council for reopening the beaches, despite some earlier grievances.

The decision follows some uncertainty about whether the mayors would follow the directive to keep people with a second residence at the coast out of their municipalities, as several angry mayors had already announced that they would do nothing to stop them.

However, following a meeting with the coastal mayors, West Flanders’ governor Carl Decaluwé reported that the municipalities will stick to a phased approach for the relaunch of coastal tourism. Read more.

7. Brussels pours half a million into new cycling infrastructure

The City of Brussels has unlocked half a million euros to install new cycling infrastructure amid a push by mobility officials to boost cycling as the capital emerges from the coronavirus lockdown.

City councillors approved a budget of €550,000 for the installation of 3,000 additional bicycle parking racks, capable of offering additional parking space to at least 6,000 more bicycles, Bruzz reports.

Mobility councillor for Brussels 1000, Bart Dhondt, said that the new racks would be placed in areas where there was a demand for additional parking but also in areas where they expected the racks would fuel bicycle use. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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