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Belgium in Brief: Making Masks Mandatory

Credit: Belga/Pixabay

Where news on travel advice, quarantining returnees and the meaning of “orange zones” remains a little unclear, Belgium has unexpectedly come through with a proactive move concerning face masks.

As the government received two recommendations to make masks mandatory in shops, first from the Superior Health Council, then from the GEES (Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy), on Thursday, the verdict came late last night: masks will be mandatory in shops, and some other indoor spaces where people gather from Saturday.

People who don’t wear their mask risk a criminal sanction, and shops and establishments that repeatedly flout the rules will have to close their doors, announced Wilmès’ cabinet.

In the meantime, the country regions are still trying to figure out how to make travellers returning from high-risk areas quarantine when they return to Belgium, but at least going to the supermarket can happen in relative safety.

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. New compulsory face mask rules: where and when?

The wearing of a face mask will become compulsory from Saturday in shops and some other indoor spaces where people gather.

The decision was announced yesterday after a meeting of the consultative committee made up of representatives of the federal and regional governments, and comes after increasing pressure from the medical world.

And pressure has been growing as news spread of a widespread opinion among scientists that the coronavirus Covid-19 can be spread by aerosol transmission. If that is the case, and the World Health Organisation is also coming around to the idea, then a 1.5m social distance would not be enough to stop the spread of the disease. But the widespread wearing of face masks would help a great deal. Read more.

2. ‘No use in waiting longer’: Why Belgium changed its mind on masks in shops

Credit: Pixabay

An unexpected move by the Belgian government has seen face masks become mandatory in stores across the country a week before the expected launch, in an uncharacteristically proactive move in a generally regimented plan.

It took some time and a lot of back-and-forth between health experts and Belgium’s government, but wearing a face mask will be made mandatory in shops, and some other indoor spaces, from Saturday. Read more.

3. Coronavirus: Belgium averages 84 new infections per day, trend stabilises

An average of 84 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium during the past week, according to figures by the Federal Public Health Service on Friday.

The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 62,357. 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. Read More.

4. WHO begrudgingly includes aerosol transmission in new Covid FAQ

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a new version of its list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the subject of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The FAQ is interesting in that it includes a question on aerosol transmission of the virus, a topic it had previously dismissed as unproven. But while it does discuss the matter briefly, the organisation seems not to give it the credence many scientists now consider it merits. Read more.

5. Face masks could mean no more popcorn for Belgian moviegoers

Belgian cinema chain Kinepolis is facing questions from worried customers after the suggestion that new measures could spell the end of popcorn in theatres for the time being.

The government has made face masks mandatory in cinemas – as well as in shops, theatres, libraries and other enclosed spaces – from Saturday in the fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19). Whether this means the temporary end of popcorn and sweets in the cinema is still unclear for Kinepolis, Belgium’s largest cinema group. Read more.

6. 130,000 millionaires in Belgium in 2019

Belgium counted 130,000 millionaires among its population in 2019, 8.5% more than in 2018, according to a report published by consultancy Capgemini.

The report defines a millionaire as anyone who possesses a minimum of one million US dollars in investable assets, excluding primary residence, collectables, consumables, and consumer durables. $1 million is about €882,000.

The total wealth of Belgium’s millionaires – known in the jargon as High Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs) came to €332 billion, an increase of 8.7%. That gives an average of $2.5 million per millionaire. Read more.

7. KU Leuven to test coronavirus vaccine on humans this year

Virologists from the Rega Institute at KU Leuven university found a vaccine that protects hamsters against the coronavirus, which they plan on testing on humans by the end of 2020.

This is one of the first vaccine candidates that is proven to protect lab animals from infections, the Institute announced in a press release. The aim is to start clinical trials on human subjects this winter. Read more.

Jules Johnston & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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