Sick, quarantined, tested: which Belgians have been hit by the coronavirus?
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Sick, quarantined, tested: which Belgians have been hit by the coronavirus?

© Belga

Since a Flemish man became Belgium’s first reported coronavirus case in late February, over 100,000 people in the country have tested positive for the virus fueling the deadly pandemic.

As a soundbite readily adopted by political leaders in Belgium and beyond goes, the novel coronavirus does not discriminate, and has accordingly seeped into celebrity, political and royal circles in the country.

From athletes and princes to city mayors and top EU officials, here is a non-exhaustive list of noteworthy Belgians (and relevant non-Belgians) who have been infected with, forced to quarantine or been otherwise impacted by Covid-19.

Royals

Prince Joachim of Belgium apologised for flouting lockdown rules in Spain after which he tested positive for the coronavirus.  © Belga

Prince Joachim: 28-year-old Joachim was one of several people who tested positive for Covid-19 after travelling to virus-hit Spain in May and flouting the country’s mandatory quarantine rules to attend two social gatherings in the southern city of Córdoba.

King Philippe’s nephew had to issue a public apology and was fined by Spanish authorities after the incident caused public outrage in Spain.

Prince Laurent: While he did not test positive himself, King Philippe’s younger brother, Laurent, said that an unidentified family member had been sickened by the virus but did not need to be hospitalised.

Laurent announced the news at the start of May and said that all five members of his family had since hunkered down inside their royal residence.

King Philippe: King Philippe had to get tested for the new coronavirus at the start of September after a senior party official he had been in contact with tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Belgian monarch had held several meetings with Egbert Lachaert of the Open Vld, whom he appointed to steer negotiations for the creation of a new federal government coalition.

According to the royal palace, the king’s results were negative.

Athletes & entertainers

Former Red Devil Marouane Fellaini was the first Belgian footballer to test positive for Covid-19. © Belga

Several Anderlecht FC players: Weeks after the Belgian Pro League got off to a delayed and rocky start due to the pandemic, Belgium’s top football club was dealt a blow as it announced that at least eight players (not all Belgian) had to go into quarantine.

German goalie Timon Wellenreuther and Austrian midfielder Peter Zulj both tested positive for the coronavirus in late September, while defenders Hannes Delcroix (Haitian) and Lucas Lissens (Belgian) also went into self-isolation as they awaited the results of their test, which turned out positive.

News of the four footballers’ quarantine cranked up the club’s count of Covid-19-hit players, after earlier in the month, midfielders Michel Vlap (Dutch) and Yari Verschaeren (Belgian) and defender Antonio Milic (Croatian) went into quarantine along with British B-team member James Lawrence.

Marouane Fellaini — former Red Devil: Fellaini was the first major Belgian footballer to report being infected with the coronavirus, announcing in March that he tested positive for the virus after flying to China to play in the country’s Super League.

The Belgian midfielder’s positive results sent Chinese contact tracers into a frenzy as they came just as the country was ramping up efforts to release major cities from lockdown.

David Okereke and Brandon Mechele — Club Brugge: The Flemish football club benched the Nigerian forward after he tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Okereke was the club’s second positive Covid-19 case, after centreback Brandon Mechele from Belgium also tested positive for the virus.

All Red Devils: All players in Belgium’s national football team had to get tested for the coronavirus after team member Brandon Mechele’s positive coronavirus test.

Mechele tested positive for the virus one day after the Red Devils won a match against Denmark, during which Mechele nevertheless remained on the bench.

Flemish singer and The Voice singing coach Walter Grootaers tested positive for the virus. Credit: Dirk Annemans/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Walter Grootaers — singer: The 65-year-old lead singer of Flemish rock band De Kreuners was among the first well-known people in Flanders to test positive for the virus.

Grootaers’ positive test momentarily halted recordings at of The Voice Senior, a Belgian spin-off of the talent TV show where Grootaers is a vocal coach.

Koen Wauters — singer and TV host: The Flemish singer and host of TV cooking show Snackmasters tested positive for the coronavirus mid-September.

The news saw production network VTM announced that he would be replaced by fellow presenter Sean Dhondt, who at the time was embroiled in a sexting scandal that sent the Flemish rumour mill into a frenzy.

Boli Bolingoli of Celtic FC: As he attempted to dodge quarantine after a trip to Spain and slink back into the field unnoticed, the Scottish club’s Belgian defender could still not escape the claws of the coronavirus as the club learned of his breach.

Bolingoli acknowledged that he flouted the club’s quarantine rules and played a match upon his return, leading the club to slap him with the “maximum fine.”

The club issued an apology and said that all Celtic’s players had been tested twice and returned negative results in the meantime.

Politicians

EU Council President and former Belgian prime minister Charles Michel went into a preventative quarantine, which was lifted following a negative test. © Belga

Alain Maron — Regional Health Minister for Brussels: As the first wave of the pandemic picked up steam, the minister in charge of the capital region’s health portfolio went into self-isolation with suspected symptoms of Covid-19.

At the time of the announcement, Maron said that he had not yet been tested for the virus but that he was observing a “strict” quarantine and continuing his tasks from home.

Fons Duchateau — Antwerp City Councillor for Health: Duchateau was among the first figures in Belgian politics to announce they had tested positive for the virus, announcing on Facebook in March that the virus fueling the global pandemic “had [him] in its grip.”

The health councillor posted regular updates on social media, sending out heartfelt thanks for the messages of support he received after he announced he had to be hospitalised.

Hilde Crevits — Regional Work Minister for Flanders: The Flemish Work Minister was also forced to stay indoors as the pandemic first swept through Belgium in March, announcing that one member of her family had tested positive for the virus.

King Philippe (right) had to get a coronavirus test after a top party official with whom he met regularly amid ongoing federal coalition negotiations tested positive for Covid-19. © Belga

Bart Tommelein — Mayor of Ostend: The mayor of the coastal city announced at the start of April that he had tested positive for the virus in a diagnosis that he said had “caught him by surprise.”

Tommelein got tested for the virus during a routine an unrelated medical check-up and said he had been feeling a bit off lately but had just chalked it up to tiredness.

“A lot of people get very sick but, for me, it is not too bad,” he told De Standaard. “That’s why everyone should stay at home because you can infect others without knowing it.”

Egbert Lachaert — Leading coalition government negotiator: Just as negotiations to give Belgium a new federal government got back on track, Lachaert announced he tested positive for Covid-19, bringing fresh complexities to what were already the second-longest coalition negotiations in Belgian history.

Lachaert’s party, the Flemish liberal Open Vld, said he would be going into self-isolation and that all presidents of major parties involved in the negotiations would be tested for the virus as well.

Ridouane Chahid — Mayor of Evere: The mayor of the small Brussels municipality of Evere announced he was going into quarantine after testing positive for the virus.

At the time of the announcement, Chahid said that he was not experiencing any symptoms of the virus which he said he caught from a family member.

Ostend Mayor Bart Tommelein said he was caught off guard when he tested positive for Covid-19 following a routine medical check. © Belga

Rudi Vervoort — Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region: The regional leader of Brussels rushed into quarantine following news that the mayor of Evere, with whom he had met, was positive.

Vervoort said that he was not experiencing any symptoms but that he would be quarantining pending the results of his test.

Charles Michel — President of the EU Council: The EU Council president and former Belgian prime minister went into self-isolation following news that a staff member with whom he had been in contact tested positive for the virus.

An EU Council summit, originally planned for 24 and 25 September, was pushed back to early October following news of Michel’s unexpected quarantine.

Yves Van Laethem — Sciensano virologist and spokesperson: While not a politician, Van Laethem’s landed a key role in the country’s coronavirus response, delivering daily updates on the pandemic in the country.

Van Laethem, one of two official sources of Covid-19 news, went into quarantine in mid-July after being in contact with an infected person.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times