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    Belgium in Brief: Connection Problems

    Credit: Belga/Pxhere

    It’s bizarre that in nearly two months of writing this newsletter, today is the first day we lead with something that isn’t – technically – coronavirus related.

    Long-held fears that we lose our connection to Netflix (and work, I guess) have come to fruition with the news that thousands in Brussels have been without internet since Monday evening.

    On the face of it, this may seem quite trivial, but in the current times, the internet has replaced the office, social interaction and entertainment, and for many has become a lifeline to the rest of their world from the confines of their home.

    More on the developments below, but service provider Telenet is aware of the problem – and is trying to get it fixed today.

    So while we wait, what else is going on in Belgium? The fitness sector wants to reopen at the start of June, the healthcare sector files a strike notice and infection trends start to decline.

    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. Belgium reaches 55,791 confirmed cases

    232 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 55,791. 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.

    176 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 40 live in Wallonia, and 16 live in Brussels. Read more.

    2. Belgium absent from German summer vacation planning

    A meeting between the German Foreign Minister and several of his foreign counterparts to discuss the logistics of summer travel in 2020 will not include Belgium at this time.

    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas held a videoconference on Monday with counterparts from ten countries that are popular with his fellow citizens for the summer holidays, to examine the gradual lifting of measures affecting the tourism sector.

    Maas invited Foreign Ministers of Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Croatia, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia, Cyprus and Bulgaria to the call. This list leaves countries such as Belgium and France out of talks for now, which come two days before a broader meeting of the European Ministers for Tourism. Read more.

    3. Telenet: Thousands left without internet in Brussels

    Thousands of Telenet customers in Brussels have been left without internet after a major cable was cut during construction works.

    Since 2:00 PM on Monday there have been reports of reduced services across Brussels, with a particular issue in the city centre. “A fibre optic cable has been accidentally cut at a construction site, and it takes time to find a solution,” explained Telenet. Read more.

    4. Fitness sector wants sports centres open from 8 June

    Belgium’s fitness federation is calling on the government to provide more information on when sports centres could reopen, arguing that it would be for the physical and mental benefit of the nation.

    Exercising contributes to the physical and mental wellbeing of the population and is, therefore, part of the solution in the fight against the coronavirus, the Fitness.be Federation said in a statement on Monday, calling for a rapid resumption of activities in the sector.

    While clubs cannot yet reopen their doors, the possibility of resuming outdoor sports activities has caused confusion within the sector’s professional association. Read More.

    5. ‘Livid’ healthcare staff to strike after minister slams hospital protest

    A healthcare trade union has lodged a strike notice, hitting back at the “insufferable” comments of a federal minister about a protest staged in a hospital during a visit by Belgium’s prime minister.

    The Setca trade union said that the workers’ strike will take the form of different protest actions but not involve a work-stoppage.

    “We are in the middle of a pandemic, people need to be treated. Our workers are not deserters, they will never turn their backs on their patients,” union representative Nathalie Lionnet told The Brussels Times. Read More

    6. Lockdown: women do more housework, men have more free time

    The lockdown because of the coronavirus has only reinforced the inequalities between men and women in Belgium, according to a survey conducted by the Free University of Brussels (VUB).

    Women spend half an hour more of their time on housework per day than men, and men have an hour of free time per day more than women, researcher Theun Pieter van Tienoven told Het Nieuwsblad.

    The VUB’s TOR research group launched a survey (www.dagelijksleven.eu) in which it wanted to observe how the coronavirus health crisis, and subsequent lockdown, is affecting daily life. The first results of the study show that confinement is more stressful for women than for men. Read more.

    7. Flemish school closes over suspected coronavirus infection

    A primary school in Flanders has announced it will close down after a pupil showed suspected Covid-19 symptoms while attending school.

    The Ursulines school in Mechelen will shut down for prevention on both Tuesday and Wednesday, in a move that comes on the same week that on-site classes restarted across Belgium. Read More.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times