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Belgium in Brief: The End Of The Commute As We Know It

Credit: Belga/STIB/EmDee (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Amid the ever-changing coronavirus news we’re beginning to see what the world after the virus could look like in Belgium.

One vital part of the ‘normal day’ is the commute, and by all accounts, there are expectations it could change significantly as people opt away from public transport as a way to get to and from work.

Overcrowding, long distances and safety for passengers rank high as concerns grow among the many who once considered themselves frequent commuters, leaving uncertainty over how people will travel, or if they will travel at all.

So what’s the other news of the day? A petition is launched to keep the tag on a Belgian train honouring George Floyd, Belgium targets tax evasion and the latest figures from across the country.

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. 98 new infections, 26 hospital admissions in Belgium

98 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 58,615. 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.

54 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 28 live in Wallonia, and 16 live in Brussels. Read more.

2. How commutes will change after the lockdown

Nearly 40% of Belgians say they do not intend to commute again after the coronavirus lockdown is lifted, according to a new study by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).

Throughout the lockdown, up to three-quarters of respondents to the VUB’s survey said they stopped taking public transportation altogether. Read more.

3. 22% of workers consider quitting over employer’s coronavirus management

More than one Belgian worker in five is thinking of quitting their job amid the coronavirus pandemic as a result of their employer’s management of the crisis.

After polling some 2,800 employees, human resources firm StepStone said that a “staggering” 22% said they were considering leaving their job out of lack of satisfaction with their company’s management of the crisis. Read more.

4. Petition launched to remove all statues of Leopold II in Brussels

On Monday, an online petition was launched to remove all the statues of former Belgian King Leopold II in the City of Brussels

As anti-racism protests and demonstrations in honour of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer put his knee on his neck for minutes in the United States last week, are taking place worldwide, a petition to the City of Brussels has been launched in Belgium to remove all statues of Leopold II. Read more.

5. Belgium claws back €87 million from tax evaders

Tax evaders in Belgium stashed away more than a combined €87 million in foreign accounts they failed to declare to tax authorities last year.

New figures released by the federal public finance services (FPS Finances) show that tax authorities last year located thousands of undeclared foreign accounts owned by Belgian residents. Read more.

6. Petition launched to keep tag on Belgian train honouring George Floyd

An online petition is calling to keep the message of “Please, I can’t breathe” on a Belgian SCNB train, in honour of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer put his knee on his neck for minutes in the United States.

The sentence was written on the train without the knowledge of the railway company. In an initial reaction on Saturday, the company said it would “remove the graffiti as soon as possible,” according to Dimitri Temmerman, who said that it could not “let a train that is daubed like that run around like this.”

Images of the train went viral, and were widely shared, including by politicians. Read more.

7. Tax-free minimum wage proposed for recovery plan

The Federation of Belgian Enterprises (FEB) wants minimum wages to be tax-free in order to increase purchasing power, said its managing director Pieter Timmermans in an interview with La Libre Belgique.

The FEB wants to increase the tax-free bracket to €10,000, and to raise the flat-rate cost deduction to €5,000 for everyone. “It is in this low-wage bracket that the impact is most significant. This is a way of supporting the most precarious households and supporting domestic consumption,” Timmermans explained. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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