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Belgium in Brief: What Happens When Kids Return To School?

Continuing with this week’s trend of talking about the end of summer – though many of you still cling to the last moments of your break – today the focus is on schools.

Pupils in Belgium are shortly set to return to school after authorities approved the return to on-site teaching. Previously, education officials had then said that Belgian schools would likely reopen under the yellow scenario, the second-lowest risk level which indicates low risks of viral transmission. The most recent decisions have confirmed that this will be the case.

Under this scenario, a number of measures will apply – so here’s a look at what they are.

The other side of the return is the potential impact on new infections. According to inter federal Covid-19 spokespeople Frédérique Jacobs and Steven Van Gucht Belgium faces a potential of 400 daily new coronavirus cases when school restarts.

“Let’s work together to fall below 100 new infections per day by 1 September,” Jacobs and Van Gucht said on Monday

So, as we relax in our final week before the world returns to the (new) normal, let’s see the news you need to know.

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. Coronavirus: Belgium reports improving figures

All coronavirus indicators in Belgium were down, according to data published Tuesday morning by Sciensano.

For the first time in several weeks, deaths were down by 23%, with a daily average of 7.3 between 15 and 21 August. The total number of deaths since the start of the crisis is now 9,996, or four more deaths than the balance sheet released Monday morning. Read More.

2. Brussels Region announces its four coronavirus priorities

Brussels’ current strategy for dealing with coronavirus is based on four priorities, Nicolas Lagasse and Inge Neven announced during a press conference on Tuesday.

The Brussels region is particularly worried that with the return from holidays and children going back to school, there will be a surge of infections. That’s why both are priorities for the Region, along with a minimal impact on the economy and an inclusive approach. Read more.

3. Marc Van Ranst accused of spreading fear and false information

Action group Viruswaanzin (which translates as ‘viral madness’) has filed an official complaint against virologist Marc Van Ranst for spreading fear and false information.

The group’s lawyer, Michael Verstraeten, filed a complaint with Belgium’s Medical Association. The organisation handles complaints in cases where citizens feel they have suffered at the hands of a medical professional. If the complaint is found to be justified, disciplinary sanctions can be imposed on the accused. Read more.

4. Shopping in pairs already helps sales in Belgium

The National Security Council’s (NSC) decision to relax the rule of individual shopping has immediately benefited sales, Mode Unie reports on Tuesday.

As of Monday, people can go shopping in pairs, the NSC decided on Thursday, adding that a time limit would also be removed.

“From a survey of independent fashion retailers, we can conclude that this relaxation has an immediate effect on sales,” said Isolde Delanghe, Director of Mode Unie. “We can see that the safe conditions in independent fashion shops give confidence to shoppers and that shopping in pairs removes a large threshold.” Read more.

5. Fatal Charleroi arrest: top government officials knew of man’s death in custody within days

High-level Belgian officials became aware of the fatal and controversial 2018 arrest of a Slovak man in Charleroi in February only days after it happened, a foreign affairs spokesperson confirmed.

The Slovak Embassy contacted Belgian officials via an official letter dated 26 February 2018, asking for explanations over the circumstances surrounding the death of the 38-year-old Slovak national Jozef Chovanec in police custody at Charleroi Airport. Read more.

6. Marc Van Ranst: ‘Brussels in European top ten for fastest-growing Covid-19 clusters’

Brussels is one of ten European regions recording the fastest-growing surge of new coronavirus cases in past weeks, state virologist Marc Van Ranst said, urging authorities to not let their guard down against the virus.

From 7 to 14 August, Brussels registered 997 new infections, one of the fastest weekly spikes across Europe, according to a weekly mapping of the virus’ spread through Europe published by Innovation Origins and shared by Van Ranst on Twitter. Read more.

7. Coronavirus plasma treatment ‘not without danger’, Belgian expert says

The corona treatment with blood plasma approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “not without danger,” Belgian Prof. Dr. Bart Lambrecht says.

According to US President Donald Trump, the treatment is “very effective” and “powerful.” He therefore called on Americans to donate blood plasma on a massive scale. Trump is basing himself, among other things, on a large-scale study by the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the scientific results of which have not yet been published. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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