Belgium in Brief: Netherlands Locks Down, Belgium Takes Measures
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Belgium in Brief: Netherlands Locks Down, Belgium Takes Measures

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Not exactly Belgian news, but close enough in geography and subject, is the announcement that the Netherlands is going into a partial lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Announced by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the new measures start from tonight and push countrywide rules not entirely dissimilar to those already in place in parts of Belgium.

Bars and restaurants will close from Wednesday evening at 10:00 PM, but takeaway will still be possible. Shops will no longer be allowed to sell alcohol or soft drugs from 8:00 PM until 7:00 AM the next morning, and it will be prohibited to carry or consume them in public spaces during this time.

This presents an interesting area for comparison, as, while the Netherlands is ‘locking down’, Belgium is still in a stage of discussing measures.

The Netherlands has been hit hard by the coronavirus, registering 43,903 new cases between 7 and 13 October, which is a 60% increase compared to the week before. It has a population of 17.28 million (2019).

Comparatively, Belgium saw a total of 35,939 new cases recorded during the week from 4 to 10 October (the last full week of data). It has a population of 11.46 million (2019).

While comparing situations is more complex than just a numbers game, increasing figures and warnings from the health sector undoubtedly back up the opinions from experts that the next few weeks will be vital in shaping Belgium’s future.

With that in mind, let’s look at how things are progressing.

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. Belgium’s coronavirus average almost doubles: over 5,000 new cases per day

An average of more than 5,000 additional people tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) per day over the past week in Belgium, while the number of new infections has doubled compared to the week before, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Wednesday.

Over the 7-day period from 4 to 10 October, an average of 5,057 new people tested positive per day, which is an increase of 93% compared to the week before. On Friday, more than 7,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day. Read more.

2. EU introduces uniform colour codes for travel zones

The 27 Member States of the European Union will start using the same criteria to determine the colour codes and possible travel restrictions for other countries and regions in the EU, the Council decided on Tuesday.

Up until now, it was up to the Member States to decide what colour they assigned certain travel zones in other countries, leading to confusion for travellers because of constantly changing travel restrictions and quarantine rules. Read more.

3. Vlaams Belang leader refuses to download Coronavirus tracing app

Tom Van Grieken, chairman of Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang has announced that he will not download the Belgian coronavirus tracing app ‘Coronalert’ due to his lack of confidence in the Belgian state.

“I have no confidence in the Belgian state. The government doesn’t need to know where I am, I find that a bit frightening,” Van Grieken said during a debate on Tuesday night. Read more.

4. Flemish Brabant brings back masks

Flemish Brabant – the region stretching from the edge of Brussels to Antwerp province – is the latest to announce it will be stepping up coronavirus fighting measures beyond the country-wide recommendations.

This decision comes following consultation between Jan Spooren, governor of Flemish Brabant, and the 65 mayors of the province. Under the new push, compliance with existing measures will be a priority, in an effort to slow the areas rapid rise of infections seen in recent weeks. Here are the new rules.

5. Belgium’s coronavirus barometer will be launched on Friday

The “coronavirus barometer” that Belgium announced at the end of September is almost ready, and will be launched on Friday.

The federal advisory body, Celeval, met on Monday to discuss the recommendations for the last time, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Het Laatste Nieuws.

“It is now up to the politicians to move forward with those recommendations,” said Celeval’s President Tom Auwers. “In any case, the existing protocols were adhered to as closely as possible.” Read more.

6. The Netherlands only allows essential travel to Belgium

The Netherlands now only allows essential journeys to Belgium, according to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ latest update.

Due to the increasing number of coronavirus infections throughout Belgium, the Netherlands changed the colour code of the whole country from ‘yellow’, meaning there are safety risks, to ‘orange’, meaning that only necessary travel is allowed. Read more.

7. KU Leuven, VUB & Thomas More reduce student numbers to fight infections

After the universities of Antwerp, Ghent and Hasselt, the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and the Thomas More university college will also switch to code orange from Monday.

The universities of Leuven and Brussels and the Thomas More university college chose to start the academic year in code yellow, but will now switch to orange on all their campuses and teaching sites due to the increasing number of infections. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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