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Belgium in Brief: Last Plane Out Of Belgium

Credit: Belga/Twitter

Scenes of chaos appeared on social media across Belgium this weekend as people flooded to Brussels Airport to try and catch a flight out of the country before the lockdown came back into effect.

“On Saturday we had nearly 8,000 departing travellers and on Sunday it was almost 6,000,” Ihsane Chioua Lekhli, an airport spokesperson, said in a phone statement.

Because, as predicted, proclaimed, and called for – Belgium is now in lockdown.

From Sunday evening, the entire country is under strict new rules, which see changes to how we live our daily lives. While substantially different to the first lockdown, the biggest variation from expectations saw no ban on non-essential movement implemented by the government.

“Our country is in a state of sanitary emergency. The pressure is immense, as you have undoubtedly seen in recent days,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a press conference on Friday. “At the moment, there is only one choice, and that is for all of us to support our healthcare sector as much as we can. We have to limit our physical contacts as much as possible.”

Let’s recap.

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1. Cheat Sheet: How does this lockdown work?

Belgium has once again gone into a lockdown, as the country tries its hardest to fight back against the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The previous weeks, however, have seen mounting changes and new rules (regional and national) which may have left the most observant struggling to follow, and that’s not the aim.

So as Belgium settles into 6 more weeks of strict measures, here’s what you need to know.

2. ‘Surreal’ scenes at Brussels Airport ahead of Belgian lockdown

Packed halls and lengthy queues were seen at Brussels Airport at the weekend due to a peak of activity caused by travellers rushing to get out of Belgium ahead of the new coronavirus lockdown.

The airport reported longer waiting times than usual amid an influx of last-minute departing travellers on Saturday and Sunday, the last weekend before the country’s return to lockdown. Read more.

3. Belgian average rises to over 15,500 coronavirus cases per day

An average of over 15,500 additional people per day tested positive for the coronavirus in Belgium over the past week, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Monday.

Between 23 and 29 October, an average of 15,582.4 new people tested positive per day, which is an increase of 14% compared to the week before. Read more.

4. Brits after Brexit: Belgium offers hope to long-term expats

The Belgian government yesterday offered a lifeline to British citizens who have lived in Belgium for a long time and risk losing their right to stay after Brexit.

British citizens who moved here after 1973 have had the right to residence as citizens of a member state of what was to become the European Union. That right will disappear on 1 January 2021, when the UK formally leaves the Union. Read More.

5. Lockdown or not, Belgium warned Christmas won’t be the same

Belgium should begin to prepare for Christmas not being the way we expect it to be, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has said.

“We would like to be able to make Christmas beautiful,” said Vandenbroucke, however gathering together large groups is likely not going to be part of that. “Such a large collection” of family members is “not so likely,” he explained. Read more.

6. Belgian police shut down gatherings on Halloween weekend

Police in Brussels shut down several parties on Halloween weekend, which violated a current ban on gathering and took place hours before the country went into a new coronavirus lockdown.

A majority of the parties that were shut down were taking place in the city centre, with the Brussels-Ixelles police zone reporting six nuisance complaints coming from the inner city ring, or Pentagon area. Read more.

7. Belgium goes back into lockdown

Belgium is once again imposing strict lockdown measures in the face of rising coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and deaths, announced Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a press conference on Friday.

“We are going back into a strict lockdown, which has only one purpose: to ensure that our healthcare system does not collapse,” De Croo said. See the full announcement here.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times