Belgium in Brief: An Ascension Weekend Primer

Belgium in Brief: An Ascension Weekend Primer

Today has been an odd day for many as people take off (leave the house?) to try and scramble some semblance of a holiday for the long weekend.

In a new turn – certainly unexpected to many – Belgium has partially opened for the long weekend while adhering to the current measures, with even second homes now accessible. That’s what we’re focusing on today.

Regardless of if you’re searching for activities, considering going shopping, or wondering if you can go to your second home (you can) – Here’s a recap of the answers, peppered with some of the more pressing news of the day.

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.

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1. 48 new deaths, 141 people discharged from hospital

252 additional people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium in the last 24 hours, confirmed the federal public health ministry on Thursday.

This brings the total number of cases in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic to 56,235. 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.

175 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 56 live in Wallonia, and 21 live in Brussels. Read more.

2. Ascension Day: What’s open in Belgium?

With Ascension kicking off a long weekend for many people, the coronavirus crisis sees even more businesses in Belgium closed than on a normal bank holiday. Here’s a recap for you.

3. Kicked & Beaten: Violence towards police highlighted on social media

A video showing violence against police officers in Belgium aims to draw attention to a situation that “cannot continue”.

Shared on Twitter on Wednesday evening by the Free Trade Union of Civil Servants (SLFP), the video shows violence against police officers on duty in the municipality of Anderlecht. Read more.

4. Long lockdown weekend activities sheet

Starting with the ascension holiday on Thursday, Belgium is entering into a long weekend under lockdown. 

While no true excursions are permitted until further notice, the latest measures mean that some cultural visits are permitted, as well as some personal activities. It is worth noting, however, that while some rules have been relaxed, those still in place have no room for bending. 

So, here’s what you can do and what to look out for.

5. Confirmed: People can visit their second home again

People in Belgium will once again be allowed to visit their second home, an update to the Moniteur Belge – the country’s official gazette – has confirmed.

Property owners will once again be able to travel to their second residence and will be able to have four visitors – in line with current social measures – as long as they are the same visitors as elsewhere.

“The persons are obliged to stay at home, or in a second residence of which they are either the owner or the tenant for a duration of at least one year, with the exclusion of mobile second residences that have not yet been installed at a fixed location,” the publication reads. Read More

6. Compulsory masks in four Brussels communes come under attack

A decision by the mayors of four Brussels communes to make it compulsory to wear a face mask in some shopping areas is likely to be over-ruled by the Brussels region, it emerged during a plenary session of the regional parliament yesterday.

However, it remains unclear who is supposed to take the decision.

In the first week of May, Etterbeek mayor Vincent De Wolf (MR) took the unilateral decision to impose the wearing of a face mask in certain busy shopping areas of his commune, including the Rue des Tongres and the La Chasse area. Read more.

7. After weeks of darkness, HoReCa sector climbs tentatively toward the light

One of the first measures to be introduced back in March to help combat the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) was the immediate closure of all bars and restaurants.

Now, more than two months later, while other measures like the closure of shops and hairdressers have been relaxed, the horeca sector (hotel-restaurant-cafe) remains in lockdown. There is as yet no official indication of when that might end, but the sector itself is hoping for – and preparing for – a return in June.

According to Comeos, the federation for commerce and service industries, the horeca sector is losing €47 million a day from the lockdown. Some restaurants have been able to limit the damage by operating a takeaway and/or delivery service in the meantime, but for most – and for all bars, cafes and tearooms – the losses have been substantial. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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