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Belgium in Brief: On The Right Track

Credit: Belga

While most eyes are still on the United States and the incoming election results, it is understandable to forget that life, and the news in Belgium, goes on.

For the past months, the failures and successes in the country’s fight against the coronavirus have been a prominent part of that news.

Currently, the strict lockdown measures in place have put Belgium “on the right track” to bring the coronavirus curve back down, according to virologist Marc Van Ranst.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke are making the right decisions “to remove Belgium from the first place on the Covid world ranking list within a few weeks,” he said.

“Our ambition must be to keep the number of new cases low enough to allow contact tracing to function, so that as many close contacts as possible can be quarantined,” Van Ranst said. “2021 will be better than 2020. Promise.”

In other news, Belgian police arrested two minors who were planning a terrorist attack, authorities seized “the largest overseas drug bust ever, worldwide” in the port of Antwerp, and Carrefour is freezing its prices until the end of the year.

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. US elections: Trump claims victory again as vote count continues

Current US President Donald Trump on Thursday gave a speech in which he maintained that he was the winner of the 2020 election against former vice-president Joe Biden, despite the fact that the vote count is still ongoing.

“I’d like to provide the American people with an update on our efforts to protect the integrity of our 2020 election,” Trump started.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump asserted. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us, if you count the votes that came in late, we’re looking at them very strongly, but a lot of votes came in late,” he said. Read more.

2. Belgian police arrest two minors planning a terrorist attack

Belgian police arrested two minors, who were suspected of planning a terrorist attack against the police, in the area of Eupen in the Liège province last weekend.

Searches took place in Eupen and La Calamine, both in the Liège province, last Saturday. In a press release, the federal prosecutor’s office specified that the two minors, aged 16 and 17, were brought before the investigating judge and the juvenile judge, and were then placed in a youth protection institution.

The two had allegedly recorded a video message in which they had sworn allegiance to terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS), and were planning to attack at least one police station. Read more.

3. Number of Covid-19 patients in hospital stabilises, deaths continue to rise

As the number of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital has started to decrease, the pressure on intensive care units continues to rise and the number of deaths has gone up sharply according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Friday.

Between 27 October and 2 November, an average of 13,213.4 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 16% decrease compared to the week before. Read more.

4. Belgian police seize 11.5T of cocaine in ‘largest overseas drug bust ever’

Belgian prosecutors have dealt a new blow to a recently disbanded drug gang led by a former Belgian police chief after announcing the largest-ever overseas drug bust “in the world.”

Counternarcotics prosecutors said they had tracked the transatlantic journey of 11.5 tons of cocaine from Guyana, on the northeastern coast of South America, and seized it upon its arrival at the Port of Antwerp.

The catch is “the largest overseas drug bust ever, worldwide,” federal prosecutors told Belgian media, estimating the street value of the drug load at €900 million. Read more.

5. Parliament and nurses clash over untrained hospital staff

The federal parliament yesterday passed an urgent motion that will allow hospitals to ease the pressure on nursing staff by bringing in extra, untrained personnel to assist them with certain tasks.

The proposal had the support of all of the coalition parties, and had earlier in the day received the approval of the public health committee. Only PVDA, CDH and Défi opposed.

The new measure runs until April, and allows some tasks on the hospital floor to be carried out by staff who are not normally permitted to perform them. Read more.

6. Brussels Airlines to trial quick on-board Covid-19 tests

Brussels Airlines is considering using rapid coronavirus tests on board flights as it seeks to drag itself out of the travel slump brought on by the pandemic.

Presenting the company’s third-quarter postings, CEO Dieter Vranckx said that the company was working on making the tests available on certain flights.

Rapid testing, Vranckx said, could be a key part of larger structural plans to get the hard-hit air travel industry back on its feet after the pandemic, and should be included in EU-wide travel regulations. Read more.

7. Carrefour freezes 20,000 prices until year-end

Supermarket chain Carrefour has announced it will freeze the prices of 20,000 products from now until 31 December.

The freeze affects almost all of the chain’s regular stock items – 20,000 in supermarkets and hyper-markets, and 10,000 in its Market and Express stores.

There are some exceptions: special promotions currently running; seasonal fruits and vegetables and other fresh products whose price fluctuates daily, such as fish; and products sold as part of a short-chain arrangement with local producers. Read more.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times