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Belgium in Brief: Predicting New Measures

Credit: Belga/Stad Leuven

Belgium’s National Security Council has been gathered since 9:00 AM this morning in an effort to evaluate current coronavirus measures for the country.

According to advanced reports, officials will first be looking for an alternative way to limit close social contacts, as a committee of experts suggested to replace the so-called “bubble of five” with a more flexible solution, linked to a number of more localised indicators per province.

Measures to supervise gatherings – particularly if they take place indoors -, changes to the colour-coding system and the potential to change how long the quarantine will last are also expected to be discussed. Read the rest here.

While Belgium’s National Security Council is meeting to discuss new measures today, the Crisis Centre announced that recent figures show that there’s a clear peak of infections among 18-year-olds. The peak could be the consequence of these youths returning from youth camps and group holidays, such as in Portugal or France, according to virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

Additionally, doctors in Belgium have seen a very sharp increase in the number of patients with flu-like symptoms. In the past week, they recorded 164 consultations for flu-like complaints per 100,000 inhabitants, exceeding the flu threshold.

“However, there is no flu virus circulating at the moment,” said Van Gucht, adding that these people may be suffering from a Covid-19 infection.

What does that mean for us? You’ll know as soon as we do. As always, the press conference is expected this afternoon – and we’ll be there – but in the meantime, let’s have a look at what else is in the news.

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. Over 500 Covid-19 patients in hospital for the first time since June

An average of 1,374 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 60% over the 7-day period from 13 to 19 September. Last week, several days with more than 1,500 positive tests per day were recorded, according to the latest figures. Read More.

2. Leuven Christmas market will ‘definitely’ take place this year

This year’s edition of the Leuven Christmas Market will definitely take place this winter despite the coronavirus epidemic, the organiser announced on Tuesday.

While Christmas – and the markets – may seem like a long time off, the logistics of Christmas villages across the world will begin soon, with stallholders already looking toward to what will be possible and/or allowed during the 2020 season.

“We have received all the approvals to hold the Christmas market from 9 December to 20 December,” organiser of the Leuven market, Dirk Pinte, said on VRT radio, adding that many measures will be taken to make sure everything happens safely but that the market will definitely take place. Read more.

3. Netherlands asks Belgium to help increase Covid-19 testing capacity

The Netherlands is looking to Belgium to increase its Covid-19 testing capacity, the Dutch Ministry of Public Health and Belgian minister Philippe De Backer confirmed Wednesday in De Tijd.

As The Netherlands currently carries out 28,000 tests per day, but the daily demand by health services is 39,000 tests, discussions are underway with Belgium to use some of its laboratories and to increase the Dutch testing capacity in a sustainable way. Read more.

4. Covid-19 has taught drug dealers new tricks, says report

The restrictions caused by Covid-19, and in particular the lockdown, has forced the illicit drugs traffic to discover new methods which could present problems for law enforcement, according to the new Drugs Report 2020 issued by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

In normal circumstances, the annual report would give a run-down of the drugs situation in Europe in 2019. But as the report points out, we are now living in ‘a new normal’, and the report has been updated to take account of the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more.

5. Europe-wide travel advice map with weekly updates expected soon

The European Commission wants to streamline Covid-19 travel restrictions in the EU with a single map that would be updated every week, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.

Reynders defended the Commission’s proposal at a meeting of the European Affairs Minister. Read more.

6. ING Belgium implicated in ‘suspect’ financial transactions, leaked files reveal

The bank ING Belgium was involved in more than 100 financial transactions alleged to be suspect, according to a set of leaked files known as the FinCEN Files.

The news is reported by Le Soir, Knack and De Tijd, each of which has a reporter assigned to the international consortium of investigative journalists who received the link.

The files relate to transactions carried out by major banks which are suspected of being related to large-scale money-laundering. Of the 2,100 files on suspicious activities contained in the leak, and specifically 365 regarding Belgium, 179 refer to ING Belgium. Read more.

7. Covid-19 test should be mandatory before boarding a plane, IATA says

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) wants that all international passengers get tested for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) shortly before getting on a flight.

Such a rapid test before getting on the plane will make quarantining in the country of destination superfluous, according to IATA’s CEO Alexandre de Juniac, who said that it is those quarantine measures that are holding back recovery in the sector. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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