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Belgium in Brief: A Heatwave With Your 15 Friends

Credit: Belga

Social circles in Belgium will grow once again, as the country confirms it will move into phase 4 despite fears that mass gatherings in recent weeks would hinder progress.

“Before I start detailing Phase 4 of our exit plan, I want to come back to the gatherings in Brussels this weekend,” said Wilmès. “We were all shocked. We have not finished with the coronavirus yet. We have to persevere. If I protect myself, I protect you too,” she added.

While the new phase has confirmed a number of things – the fact that swimming pools will reopen being the most appealing in the current heat – many industries remain in the dark about what exactly is expected of them, or when their specific mode of business will be able to function properly.

“There are fewer and fewer rules, but they still have to be followed,” Wilmès said. “So please, think about your health, and that of others. The virus is still in the country,” she added.

So from a summer season lacking weddings to the news that social circles will expand, we’re rehashing the old agenda and trying to help you understand what exactly phase 4 means before it starts on July 1. 

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. Maggie De Block confesses: Yes, I made some mistakes

Federal health minister Maggie De Block has admitted to making mistakes in her early appreciation of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, but explained she was overwhelmed because she was working too hard.

As the government minister at the forefront of the country’s reaction to the worst pandemic of modern times, Flemish liberal De Block (Open VLD) has been subject to harsh criticism, to the extent that it’s hard to believe now that not long before the Covid-19 disease first made its appearance, she was voted the most popular politician on both sides of the language divide. Read More.

2. Belgium sends all students back to school from September

All schools in Belgium will resume on-site teaching from the start of the new academic year in September, the three education ministers said on Wednesday.

The return to school will follow a colour-coded system based on different risk scenarios which will apply to all class levels from kindergarten to secondary education and will include the use of face masks and social-distancing.

In all scenarios, all kindergarten and primary school pupils will attend school for five days a week, the Flemish, Francophone and German-speaking Community education ministers told reporters on Wednesday evening. Read more.

3. Phase 4: What changes from 1 July

Belgium will go ahead with the next phase of its exit plan out of the lockdown from 1 July, announced Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès during a press conference on Wednesday. From pools to parties, here’s a roundup of what will change.

4. Belgium’s 6 ‘Golden Rules’ of deconfinement for Phase 4

With the news that Belgium will go ahead with the next phase of its plan to ease lockdown measures, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has set out 6 best practices for how the country will proceed in the coming months.

Dubbed the “golden rules” by Wilmès, they double down on some pre-existing rules, adapt some under new social measures. Here they are.

5. Smuggler who hid cocaine in artificial penis given two years in jail

A British man who was arrested at Brussels Airport for attempting to smuggle cocaine inside an artificial penis was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

The unidentified man flew into Belgium on a flight from Jamaica on 8 February and was arrested after testing positive for cocaine.

He was taken to a hospital in Brussels for a “more in-depth investigation,” according to Bruzz, where doctors found that the man had equipped himself with an artificial penis where he had hidden 127 grams of cocaine. Read more.

6. Extinction Rebellion ‘borrows’ the sign from Brussels’ Finance Tower

Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists removed the word “finance” from Brussels’ Finance Tower’s sign on Thursday and said the building should be renamed Resilience Tower.

At dawn, the climate action group said that activists arrived at the tower in northern Brussels to “borrow” the letters from the lower walls of the skyscraper.

The tower, the second-tallest building in Belgium, houses the ministries of health and of immigration. Read more.

7. Belgium faces its first heatwave of the year

With temperatures expected to fluctuate around 30 degrees over the coming days, experts have warned that Belgium is likely going through its first heatwave of the year.

To be able to speak of a heatwave, the temperature has to stay higher than 25 degrees for five consecutive days, of which three have to be tropical (meaning, warmer than 30 degrees).

“It is all quite theoretical,” weather reporter Frank Deboosere told Het Nieuwsblad. “It does not count as a heatwave if it is 32 degrees for two days, and three times 29.5 degrees. For your feeling, however, the name does not make much of a difference,” he added. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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