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Belgium in Brief: It’s Not Too Late, Yet

Credit: Belga/Prime Minister/screengrab

The people of Belgium need to take responsibility for the part they play in preventing the spread of the virus, Belgium’s Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has told the country.

“In the middle of the summer, we managed to slow down the resurgence of the epidemic thanks to the measures we took, but above all – and this is the key message – because the vast majority of us followed them,” she said.

“Let us not forget that each and every one of us can be part of the solution. In fact, we are the solution,” Wilmès said, before repeating the golden rules that have been in force for several months now.

“It is essential to continue to respect the rules. Essential to protect our friends, our loved ones, our family,” she added. “It is now that we have to do it, before it is too late.”

So as figures and hospitalisations continue to rise, let’s have a look at what else is happening.

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. Three suspected Sicilian mafia members arrested in Belgium

Three men who were wanted in connection with an Italian mafia war were arrested on Tuesday morning during three different searches in Belgium.

The men are suspected of a series of murders, attempted murders and other serious crimes between 2015 and 2018, reportedly including arms trade and drugs trafficking.

The police action in Belgium was ordered by the Italian judicial authorities, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office announced. In the same investigation, four suspects were arrested in their homes in Sicily last night. Read More.

2. Measures don’t need to change, as long as we follow them – Maggie De Block

Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block has said that she believes the measures currently in place in Belgium are sufficient to control the coronavirus, as long as they are well respected.

De Block said that she is not in favour of a general returning to confinement across the country because part of the population grows weary with the current measures, she explained on Wednesday on the Flemish public radio. Read more.

3. Belgium’s coronavirus cases and hospitalisations continue to rise

An average of 779 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 increased by 52% over the 7-day period from 6 to 12 September, meaning that the rise is accelerating. Last Thursday and Friday, more than 1,000 new infections were detected per day on both days. Read more.

4. Airlines push for uniform travel restrictions across EU

Airlines in Europe are calling for uniform rules during the coronavirus pandemic, as the different travel restrictions and quarantine rules are hindering air traffic, according to the industry.

The call for harmonised rules comes from sector organisation Airlines for Europe (A4E), which organised a videoconference on Tuesday, in which it referred to a recommendation from the European Commission, reports the Belga press agency.

“A unified European testing programme is urgently needed if we are to have any chance of restoring passenger confidence,” said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of A4E. Read more.

5. Coronavirus tracing app launches on Friday

Belgium’s contact tracing app will be pilot launched on Friday with 10,000 test users across Belgium with a view of release for the general public by the end of the month.

“We have chosen, just like in the Netherlands, not to make the app immediately available for the entire country,” Karine Moykens, federal coordinator of the Testing and Tracing strategy told HLN. Read more.

6. Jump e-bikes will soon return to Brussels

Jump bikes will once again be visible on the streets of Brussels next week for the first time since the start of Belgium’s coronavirus lockdown.

The red electric bikes, which were first run by Uber, will now be operated by electric scooter provider Lime, which bought the bikes in May as part of a funding round in which Uber was the main investor. Read more.

7. Vlaams Belang planning ‘massive’ ride-in protest in Brussels

Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang (VB) is seeking to entice followers to ride into Brussels en masse in an “unseen” demonstration against their exclusion from the new federal government.

In a heavily produced video shared on social media, VB frontman Tom Van Grieken urged followers to hop in their cars and drive them into the Belgian capital on Sunday so as to form a “united Flemish front” against “political elites.” Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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