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    Belgium in Brief: Why There Were No Figures Today

    Credit: Belga/Brussels Airlines

    When 11:00 AM rolled around today, and you walked to get your second coffee of the day, did you feel like something was missing?

    Well, it was. We don’t have any figures to share with you. For months, the Federal Public Health Service has published a daily report of the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths reported in the last 24 hours concerning the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium.

    Yet as the epidemic decreases in Belgium, reports will no longer be published on Sundays and Mondays from here on out, only restarting on Tuesday.

    This means we can’t tell you about the R-number in Belgium (as Germany faces a spike), highlight a rise or a fall, or tell you the latest from the country’s virologist.  

    We can, however, at least tell you that virologist Marc Van Ranst thinks the decision is a little premature at best.

    “A country with >20 new infections per day (last week there was an average of 90 per day!) cannot afford to already switch to “summer holiday mode” and not publish new corona figures on Sunday and Monday. Managing is measuring! Sorry, but this has to get better!”

    Since we don’t have the figures, today we’re recapping the weekend news for you. Belgium’s federal health minister makes it clear she isn’t going to resign, and we’re looking at 5 possible futures for Brussels Airlines.

    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. Bankruptcy to Nationalisation: 5 possible futures for Brussels Airlines

    After rumours of a crisis meeting at Brussels Airlines on Monday, prompted by reports that Lufthansa was no longer excluding the option of dropping Brussels Airlines, experts see 5 options for the future of the Belgian airline. 

    Rumours of a meeting between the two players on Monday, however, are “based on pure speculation,” according to Brussels Airlines spokesperson Maaike Andries.

    “We are, of course, in constant contact with our partners,” she told The Brussels Times. “But there are definitely no plans for a crisis meeting as such,” Andries added.  With that being said, experts continue to theorize over the future for the airline – with one suggesting 5 possible outcomes. Read More.

    2. Brussels’ first Covid-19 testing centre set up in Molenbeek

    The first municipal Covid-19 testing centre has been set up in Brussels by a group of doctors working voluntarily in an effort to ease hospital staff.

    An organisation called Médecine pour le Peuple (MPLP) launched the initiative in its antennae in Molenbeek at the beginning of June, making it the first testing centre in Brussels outside hospitals.

    The centre was set up by MPLP doctors in an effort to create a centralised PCR testing platform which would widen access to testing and prevent non-urgent cases from clogging up hospital wards. Read more.

    3. Maggie De Block won’t resign: ‘it’s not the time to run away’

    Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block never had any intention of resigning, despite criticism of the way she’s handled the coronavirus crisis, she told Sudpresse on Monday.

    “No, I have always taken my responsibilities and I am a doctor: when the patient is not well, it’s not the time to run away,” she said.

    “I’m being blamed for a lot of things in the management of this crisis,” she told Sudpresse. “I don’t always think it’s justified, but I can understand that. The citizens are worried about their health and that of their loved ones, so it is the Health Minister that they turn to.” Read more.

    4. Leopold II statue defaced again: ‘Stop cleaning, start reflecting’

    A statue of Belgium’s colonial-era King Leopold II has been defaced again only days after it was wiped clean of graffiti tags and anti-racist slogans smeared on it amid a surge of support for its removal.

    A single message in big red letters was painted on the pedestal of the equestrian statue located in Place du Trône in Brussels: “Stop cleaning, start reflecting.” Read More.

    5. Racism most reported form of discrimination in 2019

    Over 35% of reports of alleged discrimination concern racial incidents, according to the 2019 annual report of Unia (the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities), detailed in La Libre Belgique on Monday.

    This racial discrimination is of a systemic and institutional nature, according to Unia co-director Patrick Charlier.

    Unia received 8,478 accounts of alleged discrimination in 2019, according to Unia’s annual report. No less than 35.9% concerned allegations of discrimination over race, skin colour, nationality, descent or origin. Read more.

    6. Police break up crowds of hundreds in Ixelles and Anderlecht

    Police intervened on Saturday night to break up a crowd of partying young people gathered in their hundreds on Place Flagey in Ixelles commune.

    The gathering took place after the cafes on the square had closed at 01.00 as required under the deconfinement rules. Despite the lack of bar service, the party continued.

    “Last night we noticed that there were a lot of people present on Place Flagey,” said police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere. “We’re talking about several hundred people. We intervened and asked the people to leave the square. That was difficult, because it was clear that they wanted to stay on and sing and dance together,” she said. Read more.

    7. Diesel prices to rise on Tuesday

    This one is kind of self-explanatory. Read More.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times