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Belgium in Brief: Planning Christmas In September

Credit: Belga

It may seem a bit early to be talking about it, but a recap of the weekend news would be nothing if it didn’t mention the grim predictions around Christmas time.

Many families have their own ritual concerning when it is acceptable to start talking about the holiday period. For some, it has to be after Halloween before discussions can commence, for others the Coca-Cola advert tells you the holidays are coming, for me it was the first time I saw the advert of a snowman stealing a bottle of Scotland’s favourite soda.

This year, however, all bets are off. December holidays – be it to greet, get away from, or join your friends and family – still conjure a potential for turmoil. Talk of vaccines may have instilled hope, but it all very much remains to be seen.

“It is clear that we are not going to get rid of this by Christmas,” virologist Marc Van Ranst said. “Nevertheless, we must try to make the best of it.”

As Maggie De Block put it: “We must not create false expectations.”

So what else is in the news? Belgium is beginning to see rising figures again, a history lesson, and the latest on how much a coronavirus test at the airport will cost.

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 daily infections start to rise again

An average of 470.4 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 Monday.

The trend of new infections per day increased by 9% over the 7-day period from 28 August to 3 September. The average number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in Belgium has started going up again since the weekend. Read More.

2. Christmas and New Year will not be what we’re used to

Belgians this year will not be able to celebrate the holiday period in the way to which they have become accustomed, federal health minister Maggie De Block (Open VLD) has warned.

De Block was speaking on news that the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has a contract with the EU to supply vaccines against Covid-19 to the member states, has said it will have the first 1.4 million doses of their vaccine ready for distribution by March.

“We must not create false expectations,” she told De Morgen in an interview on Saturday. Read more.

3. Brussels woman accuses theme park of ‘humiliating’ her 8-year-old son

Dutch theme park Efteling is facing claims of humiliating treatment after a Brussels woman shared the story of her family visit at the end of the summer holidays in a Facebook post.

“My autistic son was humiliated in Efteling,” wrote Liza Kurukulasuriya above a long Facebook post detailing her experiences with a staff member in the amusement park on Sunday evening, after visiting the park with her husband and two children.

The story has since been shared thousands of times, with people commenting that she should sue the theme park and that the employee should be fired as well as people threatening to boycott the park and never go there again.

Efteling, however, says it has not managed to get in contact with Liza or her family, a spokesperson told The Brussels Times. Read more.

4. History: People of Brussels suffered three centuries of chronic diarrhoea

The people of the city of Brussels put up with three centuries of chronic digestive complaints including dysentery, according to research carried out in latrines in use from the 14th to 17th centuries.

The research, by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) in Brussels together with Cambridge University, looked at evidence of parasites found in the three latrines in use during the medieval and early Renaissance periods.

The latrines were situated in the Rue d’Une Personne, which runs parallel to the Galeries Saint-Hubert and the Rue des Bouchers, a bustling artisan and commercial centre, and two more in the Rue des Chartreux close to Rue Dansaert. Read more.

5. Brussels Airport coronavirus tests will cost up to €135

A mobile coronavirus testing lab at Brussels Airport will offer passengers standard and express Covid-19 tests at costs ranging from €67 to over €100.

The lab will offer two types of swab, or PCR tests, a regular test for €67 and a rapid test for €135, the airport said in a press release.

The rapid test will deliver results to passengers within three hours while the regular test will do so in around nine hours, according to the statement. Read more.

6. Two arrested as hundreds gather against coronavirus measures in Brussels

Several people were fined and two arrested at a demonstration against coronavirus measures in Brussels which saw hundreds forego the mandatory use of masks and flout social-distance rules at the weekend.

Around 350 people gathered at the foot of the Finance Tower in Brussels’ Northern Quarter, many without face masks and brandishing protest signs against the government’s measures to contain the pandemic. Read more.

7. King Leopold III’s Bugatti sells for a record €10.7 million

A 1934 Bugatti Type 59 sports car once owned by former Belgian monarch King Leopold III was auctioned in London on Saturday evening for £9.535 million (€10.7 million), including the auction house’s sales commission.

The pre-commission price was £8.5 million (€9.53 million).

This is a new record for a Bugatti, according to the auction house, Gooding & Company of the United Kingdom. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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