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Belgium in Brief: The News You Missed

Credit: Belga/Stock Image

In the past week, everything has fallen by the wayside as we turn our attention overseas. It doesn’t feel like it, but we only went back into lockdown at the start of this week.

Rules are very much still coming into play. Coronavirus figures are still fluctuating and, at least according to some experts, this situation could continue for a while.

“This time, we have to keep the figures down when they have decreased,” Belgian PM Alexander De Croo said. “Until we have a solution, a vaccine, we are going to have to be a lot stricter. But we do not know when that will be.”

Honestly, nobody can be blamed for taking a moment of some escapism from the topics that have steered our lives since early this year. This week, the focus is on Biden and Trump, and the race that keeps on giving.

Here in Belgium, however, the news goes on.

That’s what we’re here for, so if you want to know what you missed, then read more below.

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’s Covid-19 outlook improves as pressure on ICUs grows

As the number of new people who tested positive for the coronavirus in Belgium over the past week is decreasing, the number of patients needing intensive care continues to go up, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Thursday.

Between 26 October and 1 November, an average of 14,091.7 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 6% decrease compared to the week before. Read more

2. Retail: Unions and employers agree rules for food shopping

Unions representing retail workers and Comeos, the retail industry federation, have agreed on a set of rules to be put into force for the protection of shopworkers during the latest Covid-19 crisis.

The federal government has already set out the rules on opening times and on what supermarkets may and may not sell. The new rules are a matter of internal order, and set out how shops will manage passengers inside the stores. Here they are.

3. China issues ban on Belgian & British travellers

Chinese authorities have temporarily banned travellers arriving from Belgium and Britain citing concerns over the growing spread of the coronavirus in those countries.

“People from Belgium holding valid Chinese visas and residence permits for work, private affairs and groups will be temporarily suspended from entering China,” a statement of the Embassy of China in Belgium reads. Read more.

4. Immigration boosts Belgian economy, long-awaited migration study finds

Recent immigration waves to Belgium have boosted economic growth and eased financial pressure on the deficit-laden national coffers, a long-awaited impact study by the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) found.

Published on Wednesday, the bank’s study concluded that the arrival of migrants over the past five years has boosted Belgium’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.5%.

The report’s publication follows years of anticipation by anti-immigration advocates since it was commissioned in 2018 at the height of a political strife over migration which culminated with the collapse of the Michel government. Read more.

5. Protest against Molenbeek ‘witch’ stopped by Brussels police

The Brussels-West police zone stopped a protest against a so-called “witch” in the municipality of Molenbeek, after a group of people came together to denounce his use of black magic.

Approximately 30 people gathered in front of the practice of an astrologer and seer, who is known as the “witch of Molenbeek” on Monday evening.

“It concerned a man who is known to have a certain interpretation of Islam that can be considered ‘haram’ (forbidden),” Caroline Vervaet, spokesperson for the Brussels-West police zone, told The Brussels Times. Read more.

6. AB InBev still wants rent during new lockdown

Leuven-based brewer AB InBev has said it cannot allow the rent of its premises to go unpaid during this lockdown.

During the previous lockdown, AB InBev followed fellow breweries Alken-Maes and Haacht in relinquishing rent for the month of April. It also allowed a delay of payment for May.

Now that the Consultative Committee decided to close down the hospitality industry, the brewer can no longer afford to do so. Read more.

7. Belgium will raise tobacco prices by over a euro in 2021

In an effort to discourage tobacco consumption, the De Croo government has announced it plans to increase excise duties on tobacco in all remaining years of the legislature, resulting in a higher price for the consumer.

From 2021 a pack of 20 cigarettes – currently costing €6.80 – will cost €7.50, while the price for 50 grams of loose tobacco rise from €9.70 to €11.17. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times