Belgium in Brief: Which Measures Could Change Today?

Belgium in Brief: Which Measures Could Change Today?
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After a week of lockdown breaking gatherings and rising temperatures, the national security council will meet today to discuss what’s happened, and what’s next.

As expected, the agenda will be dominated by the opening-up of sectors that remained closed, and extra leeway for some sectors that are already open.

Across the country, various sectors continue to cry for clarity following previous changes, but as always we won’t know what’s happening ’til Wilmès tells us this afternoon.

All of these discussions will be taking place in the shadow of the events of last weekend in Brussels, when hundreds gathered in an impromptu gathering in Anderlecht and on Place Flagey in Ixelles. Social distancing was ignored by the predominantly young crowds, and not a mask was to be seen.

This is also the first meeting since the BLM static protest, which drew criticism from virologists for its potential to spread the virus.

So what that means for the future? Your guess is as good as ours. 

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. National security council what’s on the Agenda?

The meeting today will principally be concerned with Phase 4 of the deconfinement, and the lifting of some of the few restrictions that remain.

Those include public swimming pools, function rooms for wedding receptions or funerals, and casinos. The issue with swimming pools is the limit of the number of people swimming at any one time, as well as access to changing rooms and showers.

For function rooms and casinos, the main problem will be social distancing. However, it is difficult to see how restrictions can be imposed that are stricter than those applying in restaurants, where up to ten people may be seated at the same table. Read More.

2. ‘Stop tiptoeing around issue of police bias,’ says MEP ‘intimidated’ by Brussels police

A black MEP who said she was “brutally” searched by Brussels police has urged EU governments to take concrete action to fight racial bias in police and stop “tiptoeing” around the issue.

Speaking at a press conference hosted by Amnesty International (AI), Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, a black German MEP, called for more countries to follow in the footsteps of the UK and gather ethnically disaggregated data on police interventions.

“The fact that many member states still refuse to collect data disaggregated by racial or ethnic origin is at the heart of the problem,” Herzberger-Fofana said. Read more.

3. Brussels’ will expand car-free zone in 2021

Brussels’ Rue Sainte-Catherine will become completely car-free from the end of 2021, announced alderman for Urban Planning Ans Persoons.

The works will start in the spring of 2021, and will not last longer than four months, Persoons said in a Facebook post. The works should happen in a fragmented way to limit the nuisance as much as possible, so that shops and homes remain accessible at all times.

“The street is such a typical street that is used very intensively by pedestrians, and where you instinctively feel that the cars are too much,” Persoons said. Read more.

4. First look at the wolf cubs of Flanders

Belgian Twitter users have been granted a first look at Belgium’s ‘first’ wolf cubs roaming the country after images appeared online.

Posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning, the video shows the first images of the offspring of the now famous Noëlla and August. Read More.

5. Sex work allowed again in Saint-Josse from Tuesday

The mandatory closure of sex work businesses in the Brussels’ commune of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode will be lifted immediately, it announced.

As in most other places in the country, sex workers will be able to resume their activities, provided they respect their back-to-work protocols and health regulations. Read more.

6. Coronavirus: Belgium averages 93 infections, 5 deaths per day

An average of 93 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium, according to figures by the Federal Public Health Service on Wednesday.

The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 60,898. 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.

Due to the decrease in the spread of the virus over the last few weeks, Sciensano’s reports have changed. From now on, the national health institute will focus on the evolution of the trends, and no longer on the daily figures. “This makes it possible to clearly see the trends, regardless of fluctuations in the daily figures,” the centre added. Read more.

7. Dutroux affair: 25 years since first victims disappeared

On this day, June 24, exactly 25 years ago, two eight-year-old girls, Julie Lejeune and Mélissa Russo, went for a walk near their home in Grace-Hollogne near Liege. They never returned home.

More than one year later, in August 1996, the bodies of the girls were exhumed, as were those of two older girls, An Marchal and Eefje Lambrecks. Two other victims, Sabine Dardenne and Laetitia Delhez, were found and freed.

The six girls were the victims of one Marc Dutroux, who was eventually found guilty of murder in 2004 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He is currently involved in a procedure to apply to be released under electronic surveillance. Two of his confederates, his ex-wife Michelle Martin and Michel Lelièvre, are both free. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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