Belgium in Brief: 2 Months in Lockdown

Belgium in Brief: 2 Months in Lockdown
Credit: Belga/VRT

Two months ago, Belgium took the measure to stem the flow of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country by entering a lockdown. Today, we’ve started something new, we’ve started Phase 2.

It’s been a long time coming, but today marks the reopening of various sectors across the country, ranging from barbers and salons to zoos. Today is a big change for the country, but ultimately it all plays out under the shadow of what’s next.

The next phase in the exit plan will start on 8 June, at the earliest. Further relaxation of the measures regarding sports competitions, tourism (including day trips within Belgium), the reopening of the hospitality sector and more social contact will be discussed then.

So while we ponder that, what else is going on in Belgium? Soldiers will step back from the streets within 2020, the PM feels the wrath of the health sector, and 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. 28 new deaths, 43 hospital admissions in Belgium

279 additional people have tested positive for the coronavirus 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 55,559. 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.

147 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 108 live in Wallonia, and 22 live in Brussels. The FPS does not have information about the place of residence of 2 other people. “The trend of new infections is still decreasing, by about 7% per day,” said professor Steven Van Gucht. Read more.

2. 18 May: The ‘Phase 2’ cheat sheet

Belgium will take the next step out of the lockdown from Monday 18 May, following the latest meeting of the National Security Council.

Across the country, several measures will be relaxed as the country moves into Phase 2 of the lockdown plan. In light of the change – and the often confusing information – here is a cheat sheet for the rules you should be following if you set out into the world, what has opened, and what has changed. Read more.

3. Up to 27 degrees expected in Belgium this week

Temperatures are expected to increase this week throughout Belgium, with sunny and clear skies, according to forecasts by the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI).

Monday will be dry and sunny. In the afternoon, some clouds may form inland. The maximum will vary from 17° C at sea to 23° C in the north of the country, with a moderate wind from the west.

On Tuesday, the weather is also expected to be sunny and mild with maximum temperatures around 23° C in the centre of the country. At the sea, the thermometer will be slightly colder with 19° C. Read more.

4. Belgium’s Prime Minister gets a chilly reception from hospital staff

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès received a cold reception from staff at the Saint Peter hospital in Brussels on Saturday on an official visit, when staff formed a reception committee and turned their backs on her ministerial car on arrival.

“Visits to the Delta Hospital and UMC Sint-Pieter were important moments of meeting and dialogue for both the nursing staff and me,” her official Twitter account read. “Health situation, mental strain, job valuation, health care financing – it’s all been discussed.”

The dialogue with the nursing staff and other front-line workers appeared slightly different on her arrival, however. As her car entered the Saint Peter hospital grounds and made its way to the entrance, a double row of health care workers lining the route ostentatiously turned their backs on her arrival, in what some observers described as a “guard of dishonour.” Read More

5. No more soldiers patrolling Belgium’s streets from September

September sees the end of an operation which brought military patrols on the streets of Belgium’s cities for more than five years, Defence Minister Philippe Goffin (MR) has announced.

The patrols of Operation Vigilant Guardian were intended to support the civilian police in maintaining order on the streets, and in protecting potentially vulnerable targets. The operation was launched in January 2015 following the discovery and dismantling of a terrorist cell in Verviers, and the attack in Paris on the magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The threat was stepped up in November 2015 with the attacks in Paris, which were rapidly linked to terrorist suspects in Brussels. Then, in March 2016, Belgium suffered attacks of its own, with bombs at the airport at Zaventem and on the Brussels metro. Read More

6. Belgium’s top chef sounds the alarm for the industry

More than two months after the introduction of the complete lockdown of the country, Belgium’s top chef has spoken out about the future of the restaurant industry in the post-corona era.

In an extensive interview published by De Standaard, Peter Goossens, chef-proprietor of Hof Van Cleve, hits out at how the government appears to have abandoned the entire horeca (hotel-restaurant-cafe) industry.

Today sees the re-opening of a number of sectors that were closed down in March: shops, hairdressers, street markets and museums. But of the first victims of the lockdown, the horeca industry, there is still no relief in sight. Read more.

7. Fuel prices set to rise from Tuesday

In Belgium, refuelling your car will become more expensive again from Tuesday, the Federal Public Economy Service (FPS Economy) said on Monday.

Euro 95 (E10) petrol will see its price increase by 2.2 cents to a maximum of €1.2750/litre. Euro 98 (E5) petrol will cost a maximum of €1.3250/litre, an increase of 3.1 cents. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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