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Belgium in Brief: Never Meet Your Heroes

Credit: Belga/Pixabay

Comments by Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke that Belgium is “close to a tsunami” have seemingly struck a chord across the world.

The “tsunami” would be a situation in which “we no longer control what is happening,” Vandenbroucke said, adding that Brussels and Wallonia are dangerously close to such a situation.

But why has this been so popular? Well, just like when they say you should never meet your heroes, here Belgium is turning out to be a bit of a disappointment to some.

Belgium’s return to strict measures plays directly at odds with comments made by UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, who cited Belgium as a model of how to deal with the second wave of infections after numbers were kept down in August.

“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.”

As we have all seen, the numbers in Belgium have shot up since September. As it stands, we are yet to see any change caused by new measures, with experts predicting a difficult month ahead.

So, with that in mind, let’s focus on the now, and the news.

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 is yet to hit peak infections, experts warn

Belgium will not reach its peak number of coronavirus infections until at least a week, if not 10 days from now, with a difficult four weeks fighting the virus ahead, experts have warned.

Infection numbers will likely continue to rise in the coming weeks, as the impact of new measures begins to take effect, epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme told HLN. “We suspect that in a week or maybe ten days we will hopefully reach a plateau and preferably a decrease.” Read more.

2. Belgium will stop testing people without Covid-19 symptoms

People who do not show any symptoms of Covid-19 will no longer be tested for the virus, and will instead have to quarantine for 10 days, after a potential infection.

Being tested upon return from a red travel zone or after being in contact with someone who had tested positive, used to be mandatory for all travellers. Now, people can only get tested when they are showing symptoms. Read more.

3. Over 2,700 coronavirus patients admitted to hospital in Belgium

A total of more than 2,700 patients with the new coronavirus (Covid-19) are currently admitted to Belgian hospitals, as infection figures in the country keep rising, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Tuesday.

Between 10 and 16 October, an average of 8,422.4 new people tested positive per day, which is an increase of 69% compared to the week before. Read more.

4. Belgium’s second wave is ‘serious, but not yet desperate’

The situation in Belgium is not yet “desperate” but as the number of coronavirus infections continues to mount, it is becoming worrying, the country’s coronavirus commissioner said Tuesday.

Newly appointed Government Commissioner for Covid-19 Pedro Facon said that while the county is facing up to a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, it is better prepared than in the spring. Read more.

5. Brussels’ new Covid-19 testing village to open on Thursday

A new testing village in the north of Brussels will open on Thursday and will be able to test over 1,000 people each day, City Mayor Philippe Close said.

The new testing centre will be located in the Heysel esplanade, by country’s famed Atomium landmark, and will offer tests to people arriving by car or by bike as well as to pedestrians. Read more.

6. Hard Brexit would cost Belgium €3.2 billion in exports

In case of a hard Brexit, Belgium’s annual export losses will amount to some €3.2 billion, credit insurer Euler Hermes analysed on Monday.

If the European Union and the United Kingdom reach a last-minute agreement, however, Belgium’s losses will be limited to almost €1.6 billion.

The chances of a hard Brexit have increased sharply, according to Euler Hermes, which now evaluates them at 45%. According to its latest calculations, failing to reach an agreement could lead to €33 billion in export losses each year for EU countries. Read more.

7. Flemish YouTubers fined for gun-wielding clown prank

Two men from the Flemish municipality of Waregem have been fined after they were prosecuted for dressing up as a clown carrying a fake AK-47 to scare people for a YouTube video.

The men, both 24, received a suspended prison sentence of 4 months and an effective fine of €800 for their actions from January 2020. The duo aimed to make videos for the YouTube channel dressed as a scary clown carrying a gun, also recording a video of them pretending to rob a bank. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times