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Belgium in Brief: Bye Bye Barometer

Credit: Belga

Belgium bids bye-bye to belated barometer is the kind of alliteration generally saved for a Dr Seuss book, but today it’s just the news.

It feels like we’ve been reporting on an imminent coronavirus barometer forever, but that’s over for now. Let’s look at how we got here.

On Monday 28 September, a Covid-19 barometer which would enable Belgium to fine-tune measures against the coronavirus pandemic was expected to be ready by Tuesday, then prime minister Sophie Wilmès said.

By 5 October, it would not be launched before it was perfect, according to (then) new Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

On 6 October it still had loose ends.

Next, on Tuesday 13 October, Belgium’s coronavirus barometer would be launched on Friday. It wasn’t. 

By Saturday 17 October, it was going to take another week. It didn’t.

Things started to look less fixed on 23 October when Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said the committee had decided “to come back to this later.”

Today, the back and forward came to an end. “That barometer was brought up at a time when we believed that we could relax in steps and, that if the crisis hit us again, we could tighten up in steps again. In the meantime, we have learned the lesson that, unfortunately, it is not that simple,” Vandenbroucke said.

So, what else in the news? Let’s take a look.

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. Belgian researchers link vitamin D deficiency to serious cases of Covid-19

Researchers in a Belgian hospital have found a “clear” link between vitamin D deficiency and serious cases of Covid-19.

A study of 186 coronavirus patients at the AZ Delta general hospital in Roeselare, West Flanders, revealed that a lack of sufficient vitamin D on admission can be linked to increased risk of severity and death from a Covid-19 infection. Read more.

2. What to do if your housemate has to quarantine

While it is mandatory to quarantine after a high-risk contact and to self-isolate when infected with the coronavirus, health officials have explained what to do when one of your housemates has possibly been exposed to Covid-19.

So, we made a guide. 

3. ‘Not that simple’: De Croo government drops coronavirus barometer

The much-awaited and postponed coronavirus barometer has been dropped by the federal government, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said on Tuesday.

“That barometer was brought up at a time when we believed that we could relax in steps and, that if the crisis hit us again, we could tighten up in steps again. In the meantime, we have learned the lesson that, unfortunately, it is not that simple,” Vandenbroucke said. Read more.

4. Belgium’s new cases and hospitalisations decrease, deaths continue to rise

The average of new people who tested positive for the coronavirus and the number of hospitalisations decreased over the past week in Belgium, but the number of deaths continues to rise, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Tuesday. Read more.

5. In the wake of the pandemic, a social crisis brews in Brussels

In the spring, as the coronavirus pandemic reached Belgium and health care workers triaged and treated the throngs of coronavirus patients, stacks of files began piling up on Jan Willems’ desk. Read more in this month’s magazine.

6. Over 80% of Belgian hospitals plead for one, not nine health ministers

A striking majority of Belgian hospital chiefs want the federal government to take control of public health and break with the current sharing of powers and the need for nine health ministers.

A poll of 62 hospitals showed that close to all of their directors-general, or 86%, wanted health care to become a federal competency once again. Read more.

7. Coronavirus: Antwerp bans Christmas markets until January

The province of Antwerp will extend a coronavirus ban on all Christmas markets and public end-of-year festivities beyond Christmas and the New Year.

In a dispatch to provincial police zones and mayors, Antwerp Governor Cathy Berx said the ban will last until 31 January 2021.

“The current situation requires a drastic reduction of social contacts and it is necessary to continue to prohibit activities that involve too close contact between individuals and bring a large number of people together, such as Christmas markets,” she said. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times