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Belgium in Brief: Not A Lockdown

Credit: Belga/Welkom Wolf/Facebook

From today, Belgium’s new strict coronavirus fighting rules have come into effect, closing bars, limiting sales of alcohol, enforcing curfew and shrinking bubbles right down.

While strict and all-encompassing, experts have been cautious not to use a word all too prevalent in some neighbouring countries.

That word is Lockdown.

Several of Belgium’s new measures may overlap with those introduced in a “partial lockdown” by the Netherlands, but according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht, there is an issue in the Dutch word of choice.

Belgium’s measures are in place “precisely to avoid another lockdown like the one in March,” he told The Brussels Times. “In that case, you can only leave your house if you have an essential profession, if you need groceries, or if you need medical care,” he said.

However, neither Belgium nor the Netherlands has issued such a stay-at-home order. “The shops, for example, are still open. Leaving the house to go shopping for clothes is definitely not an essential journey,” Van Gucht said.

“In the end, [a lockdown] is a failure of the recommendation of restricting people’s contacts,” Van Gucht said. “If that system fails, a lockdown is the only thing left.”

Monday morning has already brought with it comments of hope that these new measures will have the desired impact.

While we wait, however, here’s the news you might have missed – including a look at just what the new measures look like.

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. Belgian infection average climbs to nearly 8,000 per day

The average number of new coronavirus infections in Belgium keeps rising to almost 8,000 cases per day, including several days with over 10,000 confirmed cases, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Monday.

Between 9 and 15 October, an average of 7,876 new people tested positive per day, which is an increase of 79% compared to the week before. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, over 10,000 new infections were confirmed on the same day. Read more.

2. Cheat Sheet: which measures change from today?

The tightened measures to stop the rising coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and deaths in Belgium that were announced before the weekend take effect from today.

Even though it is still a little too early to see the effect of the previous restrictions on the infection figures, even stricter rules were necessary, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference on Friday evening.

Starting today, and for a period of four weeks, bars and restaurants across the country will have to close. Getting takeaway, however, will still be possible until 10:00 PM. After two weeks, the measure will be evaluated. Read more.

3. ‘I’ve been stupid’: GP infects about 100 patients by not wearing mask

A family doctor who refused to wear a face mask has been responsible for infecting at least 100 of his patients with Covid-19, local authorities claim.

The municipal authorities in Kruisem in East Flanders called in the medical expert for the Flemish Ardennes area last week, to set up a new testing centre when the number of infections detected suddenly shot up. Read more.

4. Another wolf cub found dead in Belgium

A wolf was found dead along a Flemish motorway on Monday morning, marking the second time in one month that a wolf is killed in a deadly traffic collision in the area.

Nature organisation Welkom Wolf said the dead animal had been found early on Monday morning near Opglabbeek, not far from the border with the Netherlands, and confirmed it was one of a litter of four cubs born in Belgium this spring. Read more.

5. Back to work (from home)

From Monday 19 October, Belgium will make teleworking where possible mandatory again, instead of strongly recommended, as part of the new measures to combat the rising coronavirus figures.

“Teleworking will become the rule, for functions where that is possible,” announced Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a press conference on Friday evening. This is one step up from the previous announcement when teleworking was still “highly recommended.” Read more.

6. Coronavirus: Health Minister warns of approaching ‘tsunami’ in Brussels

“We are close to a tsunami” in Brussels and Wallonia, Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke warned on Sunday on RTL-TVi.

“If infections keep increasing, the number of hospitalisations will be so high that non-Covid care will be postponed more and more,” Vandenbroucke warned. He noted that the “situation in Wallonia and Brussels is the worst [in Belgium], so it’s the worst in all of Europe.” Read more.

7. Police shut down gatherings on Belgium’s last night out

As Belgian bars, cafes and restaurants served their last customers on Sunday ahead of a month-long shutdown, police had to step in and break up several gatherings where attendants were flouting coronavirus rules. Here’s the recap.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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