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Belgium in Brief: What Is Belgium Waiting For?

Credit: Belga/Pexels

Yesterday we were wondering if Belgium was going to mimic its Dutch neighbours with measures, but after the news of curfews in France last night, there have been discussions that perhaps the future of the country lies in a different direction.

On Wednesday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron rolled out curfews. Earlier in the week, the Netherlands closed bars and restaurants as part of a partial lockdown. So what is Belgium waiting for?

The answer to that would be the “coronavirus barometer.”

Set to launch tomorrow, the long-discussed colour coded system is expected to grade the epidemiological situation at a national, provincial and regional level, making it possible to counter the spread of the virus in a more targeted way.

Depending on the figures, a gradual tightening or relaxing of the measures in force will be possible, according to experts. What remains unclear, however, is which thresholds the colours will be linked to, and what exactly the different codes will mean.

Once we know, you’ll know too. Now, on with the news we can be sure of.

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. As it stands, only part of Belgium needs a curfew

Enforcing a curfew as part of Belgium’s next step in fighting the spread of coronavirus could be a “good idea,” providing it focuses on the areas that need it the most, according to epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme.

Speaking to HLN on Belgium’s rising figures, Van Damme said he believes it is not yet the time for a national lockdown, but to take small steps to make the spread of the virus easier to monitor. Read more.

2. Belgium warned not to be ‘excessive’ with new measures

Following announcements of stricter measures in France and the Netherlands, Belgium needs “a resolute policy” to manage the second wave of coronavirus infections, without becoming “excessive,” according to virologist Marc Van Ranst.

After the Netherlands announced that it would go in “partial lockdown” from Wednesday evening and France declared the public health state of emergency, calls to follow the neighbouring countries’ example have been rising in Belgium. Read more.

3. Brexit: Thank-you note from 1666 could save Flemish fisheries

A document issued by the British King Charles II in 1666 could be a lifebelt for the Flemish fishing industry if a deal is not made between the EU and the UK government over Brexit.

The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU at the end of this year, and unless a deal can be agreed before then, all of the existing rules governing trade relations between the two sides fall away. Read more.

4. Coronavirus in Leuven sewers shows city is now red all over

Samples of water taken from the sewers of Leuven have shown that there is now a high number of infections in virtually all of the city’s neighbourhoods, the university has announced.

The city started a pilot project at the end of July, to take samples of sewer water and test for coronavirus.

Viral material is excreted by those who are infected, whether they are aware of it or not. In addition, since the sewers are well-mapped, the location where the sample was taken can allow researchers to trace the water back to its likely source. Read more.

5. Only 2 EU areas remain restriction-free for Belgian travellers from Friday

Only two regions across the European Union remain green zones for Belgian travellers from Friday, according to the latest update of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Many of the zones that were initially orange have also turned red now, meaning it is strongly discouraged to go there from Friday 16 October at 4:00 PM.

The only regions that are still green in the EU are the province of Istria in Croatia, and the island of La Palma in Spain (Canary Islands), meaning that travel is possible without any additional restrictions. Read more.

6. Brussels hospitals told to reserve 50% of ICU beds for Covid patients

Hospitals in Brussels have been told to reserve half of their intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients, as they will move to ‘phase 1B,’ announced Brussels Health Minister Alain Maron on Wednesday.

By Friday, the hospitals in the Brussels-Capital Region need to scale up their Covid-19 capacity on ICU from 25% to 50%, Maron told RTBF. This extension of beds for Covid-19 patients, however, also means that several other procedures could be postponed as a result. Read more.

7. Ryanair scraps 60% of flights this winter

Ryanair will reduce its flight capacity, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and the fall in traffic, to 40% this winter as opposed to 60% last year, the airline announced on Thursday.

Ryanair added in a press release that the bases of Cork and Shannon (Ireland), and that of Toulouse (France) will also close from November to March. It will also considerably reduce the number of aircraft at bases in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Vienna. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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