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Belgium in Brief: Time To Get A Haircut

Credit: Belga

Another day, another security council meeting, and another country waiting on updates.

To get it out of the way, the thing you are all waiting on (the press conference) is scheduled for 2:30 PM today – and we’ll be reporting live, so watch this space.

As always, an idea of the agenda has been circulating online since the meeting was announced – more on that below – but it looks like schools, hairdressers and some day trips will be the big ones. Weddings and funerals, previous mentioned by the Belgian PM, could be on the agenda, but no word on that.

That is, IF phase 2 still goes ahead, of course.

In other news, the world’s best beer is back on sale, second lockdown fears, and new hospitalisations rise again.

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. 82 new deaths, 70 hospital admissions in Belgium

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

This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 53,981. 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.

150 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 31 live in Wallonia, and 19 live in Brussels. The FPS does not yet have further information on the place of residence of 2 other people. “The trend of the number of new cases is decreasing again, by about 2% per day over the past 7 days,” professor Steven Van Gucht said. Read more.

2. What’s on the Belgian Security Council’s agenda ?

Following the announcement that Belgium’s National Security Council will meet again today, the country has already begun to speculate what could be on the agenda. 

Phase 2, which is planned to start on 18 May, is expected to expand further on the relaxing of lockdown measures seen in the past weeks. This, combined with the altogether positive trend seen in Belgium’s figures as of late makes a further easing likely, however as Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wimès said, progress is not guaranteed:

“The virus continues to infect people, people continue to be hospitalised and people continue to die. We will not hesitate to reverse the measures if the situation worsens again,” she explained during the previous press conference.

While everything remains unconfirmed until it is announced, here’s a quick roundup of what to expect to appear on the agenda for phase 2 and beyond.

3. Brussels hairdressers eager to reopen

Hairdressers in Brussels are eager to get the green-light from authorities to open their businesses again, with many saying their agendas are already filling up as the expectation for reopening builds.

The reopening of some close-contact businesses such as hair and beauty salons from 18 May is up for discussion among leaders holding a National Security Council meeting on Tuesday.

The professional association of Belgian hairdressers has issued recommendations for salons eyeing a potential reopening, which they say remained nevertheless uncertain. Read more.

4. ‘World’s best beer’ is back on sale in Belgium

The monks of Westvleteren will once again be able to sell their Trappist beer at the Westvleteren Abbey from Thursday evening, they announced on Wednesday.

Sales of the beer – once voted best in the world – at the abbey in West Flanders had been interrupted for several weeks due to the coronavirus crisis.

Plexiglass protective walls have been placed in the abbey’s sales centre and social distancing must be respected at all times. Read more.

5. Doctors sharing patient details with corona tracers could be prosecuted

This week saw the engagement of some 700 contact tracers, whose job it is to trace the people who have been in contact with someone infected with Covid-19, so they can be tested in turn and their own contacts traced if they test positive.

However Tom Goffin, a specialist in the laws surrounding health-care, has warned that physicians who share confidential information on their patients – even with official contact tracers – could become legally liable. Read more.

6. A second lockdown would be ‘a bloodbath’

As the national security council today prepares for a second partial relaxation of the lockdown in place since March, business owners have been expressing concern at the possibility of a second lockdown at some point in the near future.

The prospect of going back into full-blown confinement has been raised by experts and politicians alike, warning that if people fail to respect the more relaxed rules it might be necessary to undo the relaxation altogether. Read more.

7. Parents fear infection at school more than learning delay

Anxiety about being infected with the coronavirus takes precedence over the fear of a learning delay, according to a new survey of 800 parents published on Wednesday.

At least 54.2% of Belgian parents think it is not safe for children to return to school from 18 May, according to the study conducted by iVox last week.

The concern is greater among French-speaking respondents (69.9%) than among Dutch-speaking respondents (38.6%). This difference is noticeable, to a lesser extent, with regard to concern about a learning delay. This concern concerns 48.4% of Walloons, compared to 33.9% of Flemish respondents, the Belgian average being 40%. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times