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Belgium in Brief: Permission To Work From Home

Credit: Belga/Twitter/The Brussels Times

Belgium has doubled down on its push for people to work from home, with the latest press conference calling for “maximum commitment to teleworking.”

Even though many companies have focused on teleworking over the past months, an increasing number of people are returning to work. “We have noticed this, among other things, from the increase in traffic,” Yves Stevens of the Crisis Centre said.

Unlike other countries, Belgium has never officially moved into a phase of encouraging the return to work, instead opting for a strategy more akin to renewed insistence on working from home when the occasion arises.

Today, it seems, is one of those times.

“Teleworking is a very effective measure to slow down the spread of the virus, but it is also a measure that has little impact on the operation of a company through the use of different internet applications,” Stevens added.

This renewed push for caution comes slightly at odds with the decidedly relaxed new measures announced last week by the National Security Council. However, as the Prime Minister said: “There is a very good chance that more restrictions will come in a short period of time.”

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: Brussels introduces tougher restrictions

The Brussels regional government has introduced measures to combat the rise in cases of coronavirus infection that are tougher than the ones introduced nationally during the week.

The National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday went some way to relaxing the measures in force, removing the limit on numbers of guests at professionally-organised parties, allowing more discretion in the numbers of close contacts a person may have, and lifting the obligation to wear a mask out of doors at all times.

The NSC measures aroused the anger of medical experts, who said their advice had been ignored. It also provoked a revolt among the rectors of all five Flemish universities, who advised their students to stick to things as they had been before. Read more.

2. However….. Brussels new measures are ‘not enough,’ expert warns

New measures taken in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Brussels do not go far enough, according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

“A closing hour: all well and good, unless, of course, one continues partying at home. And that is what will happen, I guarantee you. So you won’t achieve anything,” Van Gucht explained. Read more.

3. Why Brussels public transport is disrupted today

Brussels’ public transport network will be rocked by disruptions throughout Monday as workers protest against employers’ reluctance to increase workers’ coronavirus protections.

Metro line 6 is not running and more than half of STIB/MIVB’s bus network has been brought to a complete halt as unions lead protests to demand companies take “coronaproof” actions for their employees.

“Half of the tram lines are working while the metro is running on Brussels’ small ring (line 2),” STIB spokesperson Françoise Ledune said, adding that metro line 5 was also not running between the Erasme and Merode stations. Read more.

4. Helicopter hijack: Arrested men planned to rescue murder suspect

© Maroun Labaki/Twitter

The four men who hijacked a helicopter in Antwerp on Friday and hovered over three prisons in Brussels were on a mission to rescue the wife of one of them, who is in jail awaiting trial for murder.

The four have been interviewed by an investigative magistrate appointed by the Antwerp prosecutor’s office, and more details of the plan have emerged.

The aircraft had been chartered in advance, ostensibly for a TV crew to make aerial shots of the prisons for a report. Three men approached the pilot, a 35-year-old woman, at Antwerp airport in Deurne and forced her at gunpoint to take them into the air and head for Brussels. Read more.

5. Heavy rainfall expected throughout Belgium on Monday

Several parts of Belgium will see between 20 and 40 l/m2 (litres per square metre) of rainfall in the next 24 hours, the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI) warned on Monday.

The RMI has issued a code yellow for rain for the whole country except for the province of West Flanders, meaning that intense showers or persistent rain are expected, which can lead to local flooding in regions that are sensitive to it and can cause traffic to be hindered locally. Read more.

6. ‘Not my government’: Thousands of Vlaams Belang supporters flock to Brussels

Roads around Brussels were flooded with incoming traffic on Sunday morning, as thousands of members and supporters of Vlaams Belang drove to the capital to take part in a protest. Read more.

7. First-ever course for piano-tuners starts in West Flanders

On Saturday, 15 students turned up for the start of the first-ever course for piano-tuners to be organised in Belgium.

The course is organised by Piano’s Maene in Ruislede, a small town between Ghent and Bruges. Maene, however, is the country’s largest piano dealer and also reckoned to be one of the leading piano firms in the country, whether for construction, concert rental, sale or maintenance. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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