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Belgium in Brief: Heatwave

Today, the big news is the heat.

Sure, there is a raft of coronavirus news – more on that below, of course – but temperatures are set to soar and that seems worth deviating from the norm for.

From today, the RMI is predicting rising temperatures begin with highs of 22 degrees and 18-19 at the coast, while Tuesday temperatures will vary between 20 and 23 degrees. By Saturday, we’re expected to hit highs of 37.

So a heatwave is coming.

A heatwave “is confirmed by the models. It will start from Wednesday. To have a heatwave, you must have 5 consecutive days with maximums of 25 degrees or more [at the RMI measuring station in Uccle], including three days of 30 degrees. We will have a heatwave next Sunday. Then, we have to wait for the first day below 25 degrees to end the heatwave. I think it could last a good week,” explained David Dehenauw of RMI.

So before you rush out to buy a paddling pool, an umbrella, and the last of the sunscreen, let’s take a look at the latest news.

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. Belgian average rises to 490 new coronavirus infections per day

An average of 490.7 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) between 24 and 30 July, according to new figures by the Sciensano Public Health Institute published on Monday.

This represents an increase of 68% compared to the previous week.

The number of new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants – also known as the incidence – is also rising. For the two weeks running up to and including 30 July, 47.7 cases were recorded, compared to 44.3 per 100,000 inhabitants on Sunday. Read More

2. Coronavirus ‘circulating intensely on our territory again’, Crisis Centre says

Based on the number of new infections per 100,000, it’s safe to say that the virus is circulating intensely on Belgian territory again, Belgium’s crisis centre says on Monday.

On his first day back, virologist Steven Van Gucht started by thanking Boudewijn Catry for replacing him during his holiday. “Unfortunately, the virus has not taken a holiday,” he said, adding that a second wave of infections started from the middle of July.

For now, the numbers are continuing to rise, Van Gucht said, with 13 municipalities with over 100 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, or 1 person in 1,000 infected last week. Read more.

3. Curfew in Antwerp – is it legal?

Last week the governor of Antwerp province, Cathy Berx (CD&V) introduced a curfew for the whole province in response to the local increase in cases of Covid-19.

The curfew runs from 11:30 PM to 06:00 AM, during which time no-one is allowed outside unless absolutely essential. All restaurants and bars must close at 11:00 PM to allow patrons to be home on time.

However, there is a growing concern over the very legality of the curfew itself. Is it lawful, and does the governor have the authority to force people off the streets on pain of a fine, let alone a prison sentence? Read More.

4. US politician Ocasio-Cortez takes aim at ‘greatest Belgian ever’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, has been criticised after she singled out the Catholic saint and priest to the lepers known as Father Damien as a symbol of ‘patriarchy and white supremacist culture’.

“Even when we select figures to tell the stories of colonized places, it is the colonizers and settlers whose stories are told — and virtually no one else,” she wrote, beside a photo of the statue of the Belgian priest.

“This is what patriarchy and white supremacy culture looks like! It’s not radical or crazy to understand the influence white supremacist culture has historically had in our overall culture and how it impacts the present day.”

Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, was referring to the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol building in Washington, which contains two statues sent by each of the 50 states to represent them and their history. Father Damien is one of the two statues representing Hawaii, together with former king Kamehameha I. Read more.

5. The oldest Belgian woman dies aged 111

The oldest Belgian woman, Mariette Bouverne, died on Monday at the age of 111 in the Zilversteere rest and care home (MRS) in Ghent, where she was living, announced the non-profit organisation Le Foyer, which manages the MRS. Read More.

6. Leopold II statue defaced again in Africa Museum

A statue of Belgium’s colonial king, Leopold II, in the Africa Museum in Brussels, has been daubed in red paint in the third act of defacement so far this year.

The Leopold bust in the Africa Museum in Tervueren, in the outskirts of Brussels, was smeared in red aerosol paint at the weekend.

The message “BLM II” was also spraypainted at the base of the bust, in reference to the US-originated Black Lives Matter movement that saw anti-racism protests branch out throughout the world. Read more.

7. Union calls for undercover face mask checks on public transport

Christian trade union ACV Public Services wants stricter enforcement of the face mask obligation on the buses and trams of De Lijn, it said on Sunday.

While wearing a face mask has been compulsory for months now, De Lijn drivers still regularly detect infringements, ACV’s Jo Van der Herten said, so the union is “asking to step up the enforcement efforts.”

Specifically, ACV suggests officers in civilian clothes. In principle, drivers can already ask the police for support when they detect violations, but “when people see a police uniform, they are naturally inclined to put on that face mask immediately, just as you drive slower when you see police on the road,” said Van der Herten. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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