Share article:
Share article:

Belgium in Brief: Bottom Of The Class

Credit: Belga/Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Today marks a strange edition of Belgium in Brief. For over 70 editions one thing has been a constant, the daily coronavirus figures for the country.

While they may have dropped lower on the list, or fallen from public interest, we have consistently reported the press conference and the numbers.

Since March, Sciensano has published the latest figures about the number of new infections, hospital admissions and deaths for the past 24 hours in Belgium on its website, every day at 11:00 AM.

Today, however, it didn’t – which we’ll explain further down.

With that being said, we’ll have the figures up as soon as we get them, so keep an eye on the website. 

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. Belgian Coronavirus response ranks worst in global study

Belgium’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been deemed the bottom of the class, according to a new international study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The damning results from the EIU rank Belgium as doing the worst out of 21 OECD members, based on an assessment of three “quality of response” criteria (number of tests, provision of non-Covid-19 healthcare and the number of above-average excess deaths).

With a score of 2.11 out of a possible 4, Belgium ranked worse than Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, who all ranked next worst with a score of 2.22. Read More.

2. Ghent removes Leopold II statue: ‘His criminal actions do not deserve tribute’

A bust of former Belgian King Leopold II will be taken down from display in Ghent, as part of a wider push in the country to face up to the legacy of the colonial ruler.

Currently sitting in Zuidpark, the statue will be officially removed on 30 June – a symbolic date to coincide with the anniversary of Congo’s independence in 1960 – the city announced on Thursday.

Under Leopold II’s colonial regime, millions of Congolese people died. Lack of reliable sources have made it difficult to form an accurate estimation, but modern estimates range from 1 million to 15 million. In recent years, a consensus of around 10 million deaths has been reached among historians. Read more.

3. Latest coronavirus figures delayed due to lab mistake

Belgium’s daily update on the new coronavirus figures for the past 24 hours has faced a delay on Thursday due to a mistake made in one of the laboratories.

One lab reported incorrect figures about the latest coronavirus infections to Sciensano, Belgium’s national health institute, on Thursday, causing a delay in the reporting of the new situation.

Since March, Sciensano has published the latest figures about the number of new infections, hospital admissions and deaths for the past 24 hours in Belgium on its website, every day at 11:00 AM. Read more.

4. Police chief acknowledges ‘slip-ups’, denies institutional racism

The head of the federal police spoke out against claims of institutional racism in the police on Thursday on Flemish radio.

After demonstrations in the United States denouncing police violence against African-Americans, a debate about police violence against racialised people started in Belgium.

Marc De Mesmaeker, Commissioner-General of the federal police, said he does not like the way this debate was launched. Read More.

5. Lockdown-exit group working on a coronavirus threat-level system

Experts tasked with steering Belgium out of the coronavirus lockdown are working on a threat-level system for the coronavirus pandemic.

The threat-level analysis would work similarly to the five-level system currently used to rate the threat of terrorism at any given moment in the country.

For each level in the system there would be a series of accompanying measures which could be applied throughout the country or at a more local level, De Standaard reports. Read more.

6. Airport temperature checks break data privacy laws

The temperature checks imposed on passengers at Brussels Airport are prohibited by Belgium’s and the EU’s data privacy laws, Belgium’s data privacy watchdog said.

In an online statement, Belgium’s Data Protection Authority (GBA/APB) said laws did not allow airports to harvest and process people’s health data with the use of advanced technology.

In order to resume air travel, Brussels Airport imposed mandatory body temperature checks to all passengers entering the terminal. Any traveller who has a temperature above 38ºC has to go through a second check and fill up a questionnaire. Read more.

7. Belgium warned that new elections could be inevitable by September

Elections cannot be avoided if there is no government by September, Flemish House Christian-democrat leader Servais Verherstraeten told Bel RTL on Thursday.

September will be “a very important political moment,” Verherstraeten said, as it marks the end of the confidence placed in Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès’ minority government.

Verherstraeten said again that the parties currently in government (Verherstraeten’s CD&V and Belgium’s two liberal parties, MR and Open Vld) want to form a majority government. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Masks reintroduced indoors, teleworking encouraged
Masks will again be mandatory inside shops and other indoor public spaces, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced in a press conference on ...
Belgium intends to activate the pandemic law, says Health Minister
"We intend to activate the pandemic law," Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed on Tuesday in the House committee, ahead of Tuesday's ...
Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media
As the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) becomes mandatory in many places across Belgium, offers for forgeries are increasingly circulating on social media. ...
EU auditors: More worried about the future budget than about pervasive errors in the 2020 budget
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) have signed off the 2020 EU accounts as giving a true and fair view of the union’s financial position but like ...
Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations
The federal government is looking to tackle sexual violence and increase convictions connected to this crime by relying more heavily on video ...
Duvel celebrates 150th anniversary with special brew in commemorative bottle
Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the release of a special brew in a commemorative bottle shaped like its ...
Pollution scandal: 3M to show emissions don’t pose risk or halt production
Flanders has ordered American company 3M, involved in a pollution scandal in Antwerp, to prove that emissions linked to its production activities do ...
The Netherlands fears a greater rise in sea levels than forecast
Sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 on the Dutch coastline – far more than previously forecast – according to an announcement from the ...
The Smurfs return to Belgian TV with the first new show since 1989
A new Smurfs show is bringing the characters of Belgium's second-most-famous comic franchise back to the small screen with their first new series, 30 ...
On this day in Brussels: An entrepreneurial journey begins
The Rue Dansaert was just beginning to become trendy when Alain Coumont opened his first bakery here on 26 October 1990. He started by baking big ...
Almost half of Belgian subsidies from EU left unused
Belgium left almost half (49%) of its subsidies allocated by the European Union between 2013 and 2020 unused, the equivalent of around €1.375 ...
Visitors to embark on Orient Express adventure at Brussels exhibition
An exhibition dedicated to the Orient Express – the train that was the scene for many novels, including Agatha Christie's – allows visitors to ...