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    Belgium in Brief: New Metro? New Lockdown?

    Credit: Belga/Jules Johnston

    Amid the ever-changing coronavirus news – including claims that the only way to stop a second outbreak would be a second lockdown – Brussels is starting to revive in other areas. Today, let’s take a look at transport.

    In the ongoing saga of public transport in the city, there has been movement on a plan for “Metro line 3” in the city after the Brussels Region received an urban planning permit to start building the metro tunnel under Brussels’ Gare du Nord.

    The approval – granted yesterday –  is an important step for the Metro 3 project, as it will allow the first part of the project, between the Gare du Nord and Albert stops, to be put into service.

    With 18 stations spread over 10.3 kilometres, metro line 3 has to become an axis connecting the north and the south of the city. “In 20 minutes, travellers will be able to go from Evere to Forest via the city centre,” according to Brussels-Mobility.

    The project, however, is still a long way off complete – with metro line 3 expected to be fully operational by 2030.

    So what’s the other news of the day? We look at the latest figures, landlords rage over eviction rules, and Brussels Airlines looks towards the summer.

    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. 198 new infections, 39 hospital admissions in Belgium

    198 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 57,455. 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.

    93 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 89 live in Wallonia, and 16 live in Brussels. Read more.

    2. Second lockdown not ruled out

    Besides imposing a lockdown again, Belgium does not have a lot of options to stop a possible second wave of coronavirus infections, the Federal Public Health Service said during a press conference on Monday.

    Re-implementing “social distancing” and the measures put in place during the period of containment would be the only means of breaking the chains of transmission of the virus in the event of a new wave, if tracking and tracing are not enough, said inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Yves Van Laethem. Read more.

    3. Over 8% of Belgian healthcare workers present Covid-19 antibodies

    At the beginning of May, 8.4% of health professionals working in Belgian hospitals had developed antibodies against the Sars Covid-2 virus, responsible for Covid-19, according to a study by the Belgian Institute of Health Sciensano and the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITG) in Antwerp.

    Sciensano notes that the presence of antibodies in carers is lower than expected, given their exposure to the virus. According to Sciensano data collected in partnership with the Red Cross, 4.3% of the Belgian population has made antibodies against the coronavirus. Read more.

    4. Landlords angry they can’t evict

    Belgian landlords are speaking out against an ongoing ban on evictions in Brussels spurred by the coronavirus outbreak, saying that it protects people in debt from long before the current crisis.

    Last week, the Brussels government approved the extension of the ban on home evictions throughout the Region’s territory until 31 August 2020. “It is essential to continue to protect the tenants most weakened by the crisis whose effects will be felt well beyond the lifting of the measures of containment,” said Secretary of State for Housing, Nawal Ben Hamou. Read more.

    5. 200 Brussels bars and restaurants ask to extend terraces

    Some 200 establishments in the hospitality sector in Brussels have requested to extend their terraces so they can accommodate a significant number of customers while respecting social distancing rules, Brussels Economic Affairs alderman Fabian Maingain said on Monday.

    Maingain was questioned on the matter by Bianca Debaets and Clementine Barzin during a municipal council meeting. He reportedly said that the major difficulty surrounding these requests is the question of how these establishments will be reopened. Read more.

    6. Brussels Airlines will fly to 59 destinations this summer

    Brussels Airlines will offer an adapted and reduced programme for this summer, the company announced on Monday.

    Between 15 June and 31 August, the airline said it would gradually add destinations to eventually reach 59 destinations in 33 countries in Europe, Africa and the United States, corresponding to around 30% of what was scheduled for the summer for Europe and 40% of intercontinental routes. Read more.

    7. ‘Strict measures’ prevent coronavirus outbreaks in Belgian abattoirs

    So far, Belgium has not had to close slaughterhouses due to a coronavirus outbreak among staff members, mainly because the rules are much stricter than in the neighbouring countries, according to the sector.

    In neighbouring countries, several slaughterhouses have been closed due to outbreaks, but this is not the case in Belgium. “There are much stricter rules for the slaughterhouses, as well as for the housing of migrant workers,” said Griet Lemaire, director of the Flemish Information Centre for Agriculture and Horticulture (VILT) said on Monday. Read More.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times