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Belgium in Brief: A Stopover at Barcelona

Credit: Belga/PxHere

As many Belgians have seen their holiday plans abruptly broken off as they are trying to get out of Spain by 4:00 PM today to avoid mandatory testing and quarantine after almost the whole of the country was suddenly considered a red zone, other Spain-related news is also making headlines.

Earlier this week, budget airline Ryanair announced a sale, giving travellers the option to book a flight from Charleroi to Zaventem – two Belgian airports roughly 50 km apart – that went through Barcelona, but would cost them less than a direct train journey.

The deal opened up the chance for travellers to book two separate flights, one from Charleroi to El Prat in Barcelona and from there to Zaventem, for a total price of €10, making it cheaper to fly out of the country and back in to get from Charleroi to Zaventem than to travel by train.

In other news, Belgium’s steady decrease of new coronavirus infections is slowing down, rising sea levels could lead to flooding as far as the city of Ghent, and a new development in the “war on drugs” in Antwerp.

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’s steady decrease slows down

An average of 439.4 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 Friday.

The trend of new infections per day decreased by 8% over the 7-day period from 25 to 31 August. The average number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in Belgium is still decreasing, but the decrease seems to be slowing down. Read More.

2. Ryanair promo makes stopover Charleroi-Zaventem flight cheaper than train

© Ryanair

An aggressive 2-day Ryanair sale gave budget-savvy travellers the option to book a flight from Charleroi to Zaventem that went through Barcelona but cost them less than a direct train journey.

The budget carrier pushed a vigorous promotion on social media with the hashtag #RyanairFiverFares releasing 1 million seats for a meagre €5.

The deal opened up the chance for travellers to book two separate flights, one from Charleroi to El Prat in Barcelona and from there to Zaventem, for a total price of €10. Read more.

3. 30% of Belgians not in favour of getting coronavirus vaccine

Up to 30% of Belgians are anywhere from sceptical to strongly opposed to receiving a potential coronavirus vaccine, a new international survey showed.

Polling agency Ipos conducted a survey on public opinions towards the coronavirus vaccine in 27 countries around the world, ranging from EU countries like Belgium and France to China, Brazil and Australia.

The survey of 20,000 people showed that Belgium was among the countries with the highest number of respondents who expressed some degree of averseness to a vaccine, landing above the global average of 26%. Read more.

4. Rising sea levels could lead to flooding as far inland as Ghent

The sea level is rising at a rate that equals the very worst-case scenario of climate scientists, according to a study by the university of Leeds in England and the Danish Meteorological Institute, published this week.

Since the 1990s, the sea level has risen by 1.8cm, as a result of the melting of ice-caps in Greenland and Antarctica. And if current trends continue – and there is no reason to suppose they will not – then the sea level could have risen by 17cm by the year 2100, compared to the most pessimistic forecasts made in 2014 by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

That may not seem like much, but from Belgium’s point of view it could be catastrophic, as much of the country lies at or below the current sea level. Read more.

5. Conductors counting passengers should not delay trains, SNCB says

Asking conductors to estimate how busy a train is and communicate it to passengers will not have an impact on train arrival times, according to Belgian railway company SNCB.

The new duty, which will see the information uploaded to an app and used to share an estimation of how busy the train is, will require conductors to adjust the colour code for the train as a whole after each station.

While this task in itself could take up to a minute, SNCB remains confident that it will not impact the running of trains, with spokesperson Bart Crols explaining that “it is certainly not the intention that conductors will lose time on calculations.” Read more.

6. War on drugs: Antwerp launches ‘largest security operation in 20 years’

The Antwerp police will launch what they call the largest security operation in the past 20 years against organised drugs crime, Operation Night Watch, on Friday.

The mayor of the City of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, whose drug policy in the city has repeatedly been called a ‘war on drugs’, reacted to the many attacks in the drug environment in recent weeks in the districts of Borgerhout and Deurne, by announcing a large-scale and long-term action to tackle the feeling of insecurity, reports ATV.

“Over a longer period of time, we will carry out daily visible and less visible actions to discourage these problems as much as possible,” said chief of the Antwerp police Serge Muyters. “This action will be our absolute priority.” Read more.

7. Road asphalt can pollute more than the cars that drive on it

The asphalt used on roads can under certain conditions produce more hazardous pollution than the cars that drive on it, according to research carried out by scientists from Yale and Carnegie Mellon universities.

Asphalt is a petroleum-based component of coverings used for roads and building roofs, and is an abundant source of organic compounds, particularly in urban areas. And while the study looks particularly at large American cities, the findings will be of interest worldwide. Read more.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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