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    Belgium in Brief: London No More

    The news may have initially broken late last night – following rumours stretching back to last week – but now it’s official. As of this weekend, the UK will be quarantining arrivals from Belgium for 14 days.

    While this is far from the first country to enact measures against Belgium, the decision all but puts an end to casual travel between the two countries for tourists and Belgian Brits alike.

    Speaking on the measure, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf explained that the joint decision was not an easy one. “Imposing quarantine requirements on those arriving from another country is not a decision made lightly – but suppressing the virus and protecting public health remains our priority,” he said.

    These measures come alongside the announcement that Flanders has moved to ‘Dark Orange’ on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) epidemiological map.

    The ECDC gives a code blue to countries where there are no new cases, yellow in areas where there are fewer than 20 per 100,000 inhabitants, light orange if there are 20 to 59.9 new cases, dark orange if there are between 60 and 119.9 new cases and red if there are more than 120.

    Flanders has an incidence of more than 60 new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks. Wallonia, for its part, remains in light orange, with between 20 and 60 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the same period.

    With that in mind, what else is going on?

    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 550 new coronavirus infections per day

    An average of 550.3 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) between 28 July and 3 August, according to new figures by the Sciensano Public Health Institute published on Friday.

    This represents an increase of 46% compared to the previous week.

    The number of new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants – also known as the incidence – continues its upward trend. For the two weeks running up to and including 3 August, 56.5 cases were recorded, compared to 54 per 100,000 on Thursday. Read More

    2. UK confirms quarantine for arrivals from Belgium

    People travelling from Belgium to the UK will now be subject to a 14-day quarantine, as reported yesterday by The Brussels Times.

    The new rule is already in effect in Wales, where it started at midnight on Thursday, and will be applied in the rest of the UK as of 04:00 AM BST (05:00 AM Belgian time) on Saturday.

    Travellers arriving from the Bahamas and Andorra will also have to quarantine for 14 days.

    The UK’s Foreign Office also “currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel” to Belgium, it said on its website. Read more.

    3. Divorce rate spikes as Brussels emerges from coronavirus lockdown

    The lifting of the coronavirus lockdown in Belgium has seen couples in the Belgian capital rush to separate, with notaries saying that the divorce rate has surged in past months.

    Following a dip during the all-out lockdown period in the spring, notaries in Brussels said that, from mid-May, a week after authorities announced Belgium begin phasing out from lockdown, divorce filings spiked by nearly 15% in comparison to last year’s figures.

    At the national level, notaries said that the increase in divorce filings are even higher, going up by a quarter in comparison the previous year. Read More

    4. More seals return to the Scheldt river due to cleaner water

    More and more seals are being spotted in the Scheldt river, following years of effort to improve the water quality of Belgian rivers.

    The Scheldt river runs from the North Sea to the Netherlands and through Antwerp, ending in France. This week, several seals were spotted 20 km south-west of Antwerp in the municipality of Temse. Another was seen swimming in the Dender river that connects to the Scheldt, 47 km south-west of Antwerp and 100km away from the North Sea.

    Scientists say that the water quality of Belgian rivers like the Scheldt and Brussels’ Senne has improved over the past years, leading to a larger natural presence of fish, which tempts the seals to swim further inland. Read more.

    5. Rising coronavirus infections cause extra mental distress, helpline says

    One in four calls to Tele-Onthaal, a 24/7 helpline, are related to coronavirus, Tele-Onthaal says on Thursday.

    In the first half of July, only one in ten calls were related to coronavirus.

    “A second wave in this term causes extra mental distress on all fronts,” Tele-Onthaal said. The service received 22% more calls in the past week than it does on average. Read More.

    6. Ryanair will fly at 60% capacity in August

    Ryanair will operate at 60% of its conventional flight schedule in August “after the successful resumption of its services at the end of June,” the low-cost carrier announces on Thursday.

    The airline flew 4.4 million passengers across Europe in July. Read More.

    7. Remains found in Australia are not those of Belgian backpacker Théo

    Human remains found in the area near Byron Bay in Australia in July are not those of the Belgian backpacker Théo Hayez, missing since May 31 last year.

    The remains were found by police were found during a search for traces of an Australian woman, named Thea Liddle. The 42-year-old was last seen in the area in October 2019.

    Police at the time said the remains were “highly unlikely” to be Théo, and forensic examination carried out since has confirmed that view.  Read more.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times