Belgium in Brief: More Testing, More Cases, More Waiting

Belgium in Brief: More Testing, More Cases, More Waiting
Credit: Belga

It's not exactly the way any of us wanted to round out the week, but here we are. As predicted for what feels like an age, the gap is closing between Belgium and 1,000 new coronavirus infections each day.

What impact this will have on discussions next week during the National Security Council is currently unknown. Objectively speaking, numbers may be higher, but so are the number of tests being carried out compared to the first wave of the virus.

However, despite more tests equaling more infections, the percentage of tests that come back positive is also going up, from 2% at the end of August to 3.2% over the past week, according to Sciensano's data.

The idea that the situation is not as alarming as the spring is a big motivator behind the news that the Brussels Region will not tighten coronavirus measures ahead of any countrywide decision next week.

For now, as has been the case for a while, it's a matter of wait and see.

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. Covid-19: Average new cases edges toward 1,000 a day

An average of 978.3 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 Friday.

The trend of new infections per day increased by 74% over the 7-day period from 8 to 14 September, meaning that the rise is accelerating.

The peak this past week was reached on Monday 14 September, when there were 1,625 positive tests recorded. On that day, 28,547 tests were carried out. Read More.

2. Brussels holds off on tightening coronavirus measures

There will be no tightening of coronavirus measures in the Brussels-Capital Region, given that the situation is not as alarming as it was during the spring, regional officials decided on Thursday.

Following an experts meeting on Thursday, the cabinet of Minister-President Rudi Vervoort decided that the coronavirus situation in Brussels schools, hospitals and nursing homes remained stable and “similar to that in other parts of the country.” Read more.

3. Brussels residents asked to fly Belgian flags against Vlaams Belang protest

The youth sections of the seven political parties currently negotiating a federal coalition are calling on the people of Brussels to hang out a Belgian flag on the day the Flemish far-right Vlaams Belang party is planning a ride-in protest.

“We call on every inhabitant of Brussels to display the Belgian tricolour as a symbol against racism and the separatism of Vlaams Belang,” Timon Hogenaar, co-chair of the youth section of the Flemish greens, told The Brussels Times.

Vlaams Belang is calling on its supporters to drive into Brussels on Sunday 27 September for a “not my government” protest, and form a “united Flemish front.” Read more.

4. Brussels wants tougher rules on Airbnb-like rentals

Brussels has joined with 22 major European cities asking tougher regulation against vacation rental platforms like Airbnb, which they say is bad for real estate markets and for the attractiveness of city centres.

The cities are due to meet European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager in Paris on Thursday and denounce “a dated and advantageous European legal framework” for these platforms, according to a press release.

The representatives of these cities want to “force the platforms to share their data, which is essential for effective control” and hold them “responsible for the announcements they publish.” Read more.

5. Belgium’s second nude beach will open in summer 2021

Belgium’s naturists will have more room under the sun from next summer after a coastal town announced the creation of the country’s second nudist beach.

After having to skip a trip to the beach this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, nudism enthusiasts will be able to plop down in Middelkerke, after the municipality decided to reserve parts of its coastal strip to the country’s nudist community. Read more.

6. Brussels wants to take over former NATO HQ for major trials

Representatives of the Brussels justice system have asked federal justice minister Koen Geens to be allowed to hold major trials in the former headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Geens (CD&V) has already given the go-ahead for the campus to be used for the trial of the people suspected of organising and carrying out the terrorist attacks in Zaventem and Brussels in March 2016. Read more.

7. Belgium launches coronavirus tracing app for 10,000 people today

Belgium's coronavirus tracing app enters a second pilot phase today as 10,000 users across the country test it ahead of its release to the wider public.

Following an initial test phase involving 90 people and two simulated scenarios, the new pilot phase will test the app's behaviour in real-life situations, when users' daily activities could see them face a risk of Covid-19 infection.

The 10,000 volunteers will be tasked with testing the mobile app for user-friendliness for 10 days. Read more.

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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