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    Belgium in Brief: Who said Lockdown?

    Credit: Belga

    For those of you just checking in after a weekend of avoiding the news, there is a chance you’re a little alarmed with the talk of code orange, shrinking social bubbles and calls to lockdown again.

    On Saturday, the European Centre for Disease Control gave Flanders code orange status while the rest of the country remained yellow. Code orange means that the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants rises to 20 or above for two weeks.

    By Sunday, this code had been pushed to the entire country. This, however, was far from the only eye-catching change.

    Sunday also brought calls that the only way to contain the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) is to impose a lockdown in Antwerp, according to medical expert Dirk Devroey. Furthermore, the city of Mechelen cancelled all public and private events, Antwerp province limited the contact bubble to 10 persons for four weeks, and a whole host of other stories.

    And that’s not even starting to talk about the fact that the National Security Council are meeting today, less than a week after the next meeting, so more on that below.

    As always, we’ll be here covering the conference. So as you wait, wonder or work, let’s have a look at the news out there.

    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. NSC agenda: local lockdowns and reducing social contacts

    The latest meeting of Belgium’s National Security Council (NSC) kicked off at 9:00 AM, just four days after the last meeting which saw measures increased again in the country.

    On the Agenda today, the prime minister and top-level government officials are expected to decide whether to shrink social bubbles down to 10 people from the current 15, which are allowed to change every week. Here’s the latest.

    2. Rapid increase in Covid-19 infections is ‘worrying’, warns Crisis Centre

    In the face of Belgium’s rapidly increasing coronavirus figures, Belgian health institute Sciensano and the National Crisis Centre doubled down on the importance of respecting the measures.

    Over the past week, 1,952 new coronavirus infections were recorded in Belgium, which is an increase of 71% compared to the week before, with 1,142 new confirmed cases.

    “The rapid increase is worrying,” said Boudewijn Catry, spokesperson for Sciensano. “The number of patients in those hospitals is still limited for the time being, but this figure is on the rise as well,” he added. Read More.

    3. Belgian average rises to 279 coronavirus infections per day

    An average of 278.9 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 Monday.

    The trend of new infections per day has risen by 71% over the 7-day period from 17 to 23 July, compared to the average of 163 new infections per day the week before.

    The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 66,026. 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. Over a dozen horeca closures as Antwerp cracks down on social distancing

    Over a dozen eating and drinking establishments were forced to close in Antwerp at the weekend during the first week of tightened measures to fight the emergence of a coronavirus cluster.

    Thirteen cafes, restaurants and bars were caught flouting social distancing measures and are set to remain closed for at least one whole week.

    On Saturday, nine horeca, or hospitality industry establishments, were ordered to close down over “flagrant violations” of the coronavirus regulations. Read more.

    5. Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst warns against coronavirus super spreaders

    Virologist Marc Van Ranst warned against so-called super spreaders of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) on Saturday on VTM Nieuws.

    “We are seeing in laboratories that the number of people with lots of viruses in the throat is high, and that worries every one of us,” he said, adding that “these are the ones you definitely want to keep under quarantine,” Van Ranst explained. Read More.

    6. Brussels’ lower coronavirus numbers could be due to underreporting

    Brussels’ lower coronavirus infection rates could be due to underreporting, according to general practitioners, who call on politicians to increase space and staff for testing for the virus.

    Only one of Brussels’ communes was over the alarm threshold of 20 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, and infections in Brussels as a whole dropped by 6%, while infections increased by 500% in Antwerp. Read more.

    7. Belgian gymnast responds to abuse confession by former coach

    Aagje Vanwalleghem, Belgium’s former medal-winning gymnast, has responded to yesterday’s news that Gerrit Beltman, who was once her coach, has admitted to using abuse and intimidation in his career of training young girls.

    Beltman, who now works in Canada, made his confession to the Dutch newspaper Noordhollandse Dagblad, confessing that his drive to win medals led him to employ mental abuse and humiliation on his charges in a misguided attempt to get a better performance out of him. Read more.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times