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Belgium in Brief: Belgium Delivers On 12 Free Train Rides

Credit: Belga/ECDC

It has certainly been a tough year all around. Concern has been the main motivator for a lot of news consumption in the passing months, as numbers rise and fall and borders open and close.

This week, however, excitement is the reason behind the biggest story.

People really want those free rail tickets.

It’s been a long saga to get us here, with the pass delayed time and time again, but since the start of this month, Belgian residents have been able to apply for their pass. While the pass will only be valid from 5 October, it can only be applied for until 30 September, prompting an influx of traffic to the website

The twelve-journey pass is valid on all SNCB trains, across the entire Belgian railway network. Passengers must fill in their pass before boarding the train, and show it to the train conductor together with their identity card.

With news of high traffic crashing the site and nearly half a million applications in the first 24h, it’s safe to say the service has been popular. Anyone who has applied for one, will receive the paper rail pass by post after 8 to 10 days, according to the company. The pass will be registered to your name, and travellers will be able to use it for a maximum of two journeys per month, for a six-month period.

In other news, Belgium’s daily average continues to fall, the national crisis centre provides tips to avoid infection during the school year, and Belgium becomes light orange on the coronavirus map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

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 continues to decrease, 438 new coronavirus cases per day

An average of 438.3 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium during the past week, according to the latest figures by Sciensano on Wednesday.

The trend of new infections per day decreased by 12% over the 7-day period from 23 to 29 August. The average number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in Belgium is continuing its decreasing trend.

The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic is 85,487. 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.

2. Free rail pass: nearly half a million people apply in first 24 hours

Nearly 500,000 people applied for the national railway service’s (SNCB) free 12-ride ticket in the first 24 hours it was available.

Applying for the rail pass has been possible since Monday and can be done through this website until 30 September.

The paper card, known as the Hello Belgium Rail Pass, will be nominative and valid from 5 October. Read more.

3. Crisis Centre: tips to avoid coronavirus this school year

As the new school year has started, health officials gave some tips to children and parents to make sure they stay safe before, during and after school, at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Pupils, teachers and parents must keep a close eye on the hygiene measures,” said Yves Stevens, spokesperson for the National Crisis Centre. Outside of the school walls, the measures still remain in force, both for pupils and parents, he stressed.

For the full list of tips, click here.

4. Belgium becomes light orange again on European coronavirus map

Belgium has turned light orange on the coronavirus map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

On the updated map published on 1 September by the ECDC, all of Belgium has turned light orange again, indicating that between 20 and 60 confirmed infections per 100,000 over the last two weeks have been recorded across the entire territory. Read more.

5. Travel bosses call for regionalised quarantines to encourage UK travel

The UK government stands accused of closing the country to travellers with the 14- day quarantine policy on arrivals from several countries across the world.  As it stands, there is no clear indication when the UK intends to relax the quarantine policy, but travel bosses are calling for a need to change. Read more.

6. Marc Van Ranst absent from revamped coronavirus expert group

A revamp of the CELEVAL expert group advising the government on the coronavirus pandemic has notably seen top virologist Marc Van Ranst step aside

Van Ranst, an outspoken virologist who has been part of the core team of experts advising the National Security Council on the pandemic, is set to stay on as a replacement for virologist Erika Vlieghe.

Vlieghe had previously chaired the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES), which advised the government as it eased the country of the coronavirus lockdown. Read more.

7. How face shields and valve masks let invisible droplets through

People who wear face shields and masks with exhalation valves are ineffective in stopping the coronavirus spread on their own, as they spray a wide area with droplets after sneezing or coughing, a laser visualisation experiment shows. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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