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Belgium in Brief: Meetings Before Meetings

Credit: Belga/Philippe Close/Twitter

While Belgium has passed the mark of 1,000 new infections per day over the weekend, the mayors of Brussels will be meeting today, ahead of the big National Security Council meeting later this week.

Despite the Brussels-Capital Region being hardest hit by the latest rise in infections, however, the meeting is not expected to introduce new measures for the general population, but to focus on the return to classes in schools and universities.

As Sciensano’s latest figures show that teenagers and twenty-somethings are currently the biggest groups among the new infections, experts have asked them to limit their weekend trips home, and asked authorities to focus on making sure student life outside campus does not further fuel the virus.

For new or adjusted country-wide decisions, however, Belgium will have to wait until Wednesday, when the next National Security Council is set to take place.

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. Belgian average rises to almost 1,200 new coronavirus infections per day

An average of 1,196.1 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 62% over the 7-day period from 11 to 17 September, a light slowing-down of the recent upward trend. Last week, several days with more than 1,500 positive tests per day were recorded, according to recently updated figures. Read More.

2. Teenagers currently most affected by new Covid-19 infections in Belgium

The number of new coronavirus infections in Belgium is currently highest in the group of 10-to-20-year-olds, health officials said during a press conference on Monday.

As the number of new infections is rising across the country, the age distribution of these new cases seems to be gradually shifting towards a predominance for the group between 10 and 20 years old, said Boudewijn Catry of national health institute, Sciensano.

“The infections in teenagers and twenty-somethings are similar at the moment, but in absolute numbers, the highest numbers have been recorded among teenagers over the last few days,” he said. Read more.

3. Brussels mayors meet ahead of National Security Council

The 19 mayors of Brussels will meet on Monday afternoon to assess the coronavirus situation in the capital as infections figures keep rising and ahead of a national government meeting mid-week.

The meeting was called following an expert committee last week which saw the office of Minister-President Rudi Vervoort decide against rolling out new coronavirus measures, choosing instead to stress the importance of sticking to the existing rules.

On Monday, the 19 mayors will be joined by officials from regional health and security agencies in Brussels in a meeting which will also be attended by the offices of the Flemish and Francophone education ministers. Read more.

4. ‘What is your plan?’: Extinction Rebellion targets Belgian Royal Palace

Activists with the climate action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) targeted the Belgian Royal Palace as they seek to hike the pressure for more ambitious climate policies.

Climate campaigners tagged the group’s logo onto the palace walls on Sunday along with the message “What is your plan?” written in Dutch.

The move was part of a wider action in which XR members targeted some of the buildings housing Belgium’s highest political offices, such as the Rue de la Loi, where the prime minister’s office is located. Read more.

5. Europe’s travel and tourism sectors call for end to quarantines

Twenty organisations involved in Europe’s travel and tourism sectors have called on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to end compulsory quarantine restrictions.

The organisations, which represent more than 5,000 companies, want the system to be replaced by a European testing protocol for travel.

In an open letter addressed to von der Leyen, they complained of “a chaotic situation” and referred to “the urgent need” for European coordination on travel advisories. Read more.

6. More and more soldiers are leaving the Belgian army

More and more tenured soldiers between the ages of 30 and 40 years are leaving the Belgian army, the president of the military union, ACMP-CCGM, warned on Sunday.

A whopping 343 persons left the army in 2019, as against a few dozen in preceding years. This is “a new, sad phenomenon,” Yves Huwaert said in De Zondag newspaper.

Experienced soldiers have been quitting for reasons ranging from poor working conditions and a lack of useful work to lack of leadership, he explained. Read more.

7. Belgian team wins European solar car championship

Belgium’s Team Agoria Solar took gold in the European solar car championship in Heusden-Zolder on Sunday afternoon, completing 352 laps in 24 hours in its Bluepoint vehicle.

The Dutch Team Twente Solar made off with both second and third places in Red Shift (313 rounds) and Red E (304 laps).

Eleven vehicles from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey participated in the iLumen European Solar Challenge 2020. Read more.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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