Belgium in Brief: We Should Never Have Ended Up In This Situation
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Belgium in Brief: We Should Never Have Ended Up In This Situation

Credit: Belga

Belgium’s new testing strategy – which goes into effect today – has drawn criticism for a multitude of reasons.

It will impact infection numbers meaning they will have to be interpreted differently, it will rely on trusting people to gauge how they feel, it takes away the comfort of having a test for those who have been exposed.

But, to one prominent virologist, one of the main problems is that we never should have ended up in this situation in the first place.

“We should never, ever have ended up in this situation where we have 10,000 to 12,000 new cases a day. That is the problem. We could have avoided this,”  said Marc Van Ranst on Tuesday evening. “The fact that we now, unfortunately, have to switch back is only because we now have so many cases.” More here.

So as numbers continue to rise, rules go into effect, and the country flip-flops rule interpretation… here’s 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. Brussels says public transport isn’t causing infection to spread

Public transport is not causing the coronavirus to spread through the Brussels-Capital Region, according to a study referred to by the cabinet of Brussels Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt.

Passengers on buses, metros, trams and trains are safe, as long as the vehicles are properly cleaned and ventilated, and there is an obligation to wear a face mask, according to a study by the International Association for Public Transport (UITP). Read more.

2. Explaining Belgium’s new Covid-19 testing strategy

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. New testing changes cause anger and confusion

The changes to the country’s testing strategy for Covid-19 announced this week have caused widespread upset among experts, family physicians and business. See the recap here.

4. In photos: Brussels streets deserted on first night of coronavirus curfew

Belgium’s coronavirus curfew went into effect at midnight on Tuesday, emptying the capital’s streets as police confirmed the measure was well followed by citizens.

A minute after midnight on Tuesday, Brussels’ Grand-Place and its typically bustling surroundings were deserted and echoed with steps of police officers on patrol. Read more.

5. Coronavirus: Belgium nears average of 9,000 cases per day

An average of almost 9,000 people tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) per day over the past week in Belgium, as hospitalisations and deaths continue to rise, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Wednesday.

Between 11 and 17 October, an average of 8,975.4 new people tested positive per day, which is an increase of 68% compared to the week before. Read more.

6. Flanders will purchase rapid coronavirus tests

The Flemish government will acquire rapid tests (antigenic tests) to detect Covid-19, Flemish Wellbeing Minister Wouter Beke announced on Tuesday.

The exact number of tests to be purchased will be announced on Friday.

“Antigenic tests have the advantage that they do not have to go through a laboratory. The results are therefore obtained more quickly,” Beke told the Flemish parliament on Tuesday. Read more.

7. Practical Measures: Takeaways now can’t sell alcohol to take away

Belgian restaurants that offer takeaway food during the weeks of compulsory closure will not be allowed to sell alcohol to take away, according to the ministerial decree on anti-Covid measures published in the Moniteur Belge on Sunday. Read more.

7. Practical Measures: Takeaways can sell alcohol to take away

In a total flip-flop of rules, it turns out takeaways selling alcohol is fine, it just wasn’t clear to anyone involved that that was the case. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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