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Belgium in Brief: Explaining The Cuddle Contact

Credit: Belga/Pikrepo/Pixabay

‘Knuffelcontact’ has been the Belgian phrase heard across the globe in recent weeks, but how did such a flippant phrase make it into such serious news.

Firstly, breaking it down to the component words:

Knuffel: Hug/Cuddle & Contact: Contact (obviously) has created a phrase that seems to have struck a chord with people stuck in relative isolation.

The phrase, first used by Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, could also be taken to mean ‘close contact’. In simple terms, it refers to the latest lockdown rules which let people pick one contact from outside their household to be physically close to.

Internationally speaking, the most cutesy version of the name quickly caught on – with media across the world jumping on explainers of Belgium’s “cuddle contact” rule.

Speaking after the initial announcement, interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht was quick to defend the measure – notably using both versions of the phrase.

“The most important rule remains the limiting of our close contacts, or our so-called ‘cuddle contacts.’ The success of our fight against the virus stands and falls with this,” said Steven Van Gucht.

No matter what you call it, at least for now the rule seems here to stay. Aside from that, here’s some more news from across Belgium.

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. Infections mainly occur in restaurants, gyms and cafes, study finds

A large proportion of corona infections take place at so-called “super-spreader locations,” such as restaurants, gyms and cafés, according to a new American study of mobility patterns.

Using a model based on demographic data, epidemiological estimates and anonymous mobile phone data, scientists at Stanford University assessed locations more prone to the spread of the virus, with a focus on larger cities. Click here

2. ‘Hug it out’: foreign press love Belgian ‘cuddle contacts’

Several international news outlets have been captivated by Belgium’s “cuddle contact” rule, which allows people to be physically close to one person outside their households during the lockdown.

Not long after the announcement that Belgium went back into lockdown, and the fact that Belgians were allowed to pick one “cuddle contact” to be physically close to during the period of isolation, the international press picked up on the term and tried to explain the Belgian concept across the world. Here’s more.

3. Brussels wants to test people without Covid-19 symptoms again

The Brussels Health Inspectorate is calling to adapt and expand Belgium’s current Covid-19 testing strategy again, to include all high-risk contacts, including those who do not show any symptoms.

When all seven test centres in Brussels will be opened next week, the Region will have a capacity of 9,000 test per day, meaning they will be able to test asymptomatic people again, said the head of the Brussels Health Inspectorate Inge Neven. Read more.

4. Sinterklaas won’t have to quarantine or curfew in Belgium

Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas in French) will not have to go into quarantine when he travels to Belgium at the weekend, two government ministers have said.

In a letter written to the Saint, federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (sp.a) and his colleague, home affairs minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) assured him he would not be obliged to go into quarantine, despite travelling from a red zone. In addition, the nationwide curfew from 22.00 to 06.00 will not apply to him and his helpers, to allow them to deliver gifts to the nation’s children. Read More

5. Covid-19 patients in Belgian hospitals decrease further, deaths rise to 200 per day

As the figures for new coronavirus infections and hospitalisations in Belgium continue to decrease, the average number of deaths has risen to almost 200 per day, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Thursday.

Between 2 and 8 November, an average of 7,664.6 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 46% decrease compared to the week before. Read More

6. Small businesses welcome extended moratorium on bankruptcies

The union of small businesses (UCM) has welcomed a decision taken by ministers last week to extend an existing moratorium on bankruptcies until 31 January 2021.

The proposal was presented by justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) and minister for small business David Clarinval (MR) and approved by fellow ministers. However, it was not reported while it was being sent to the Council of State for a ruling on its legality. Read more.

7. ‘Do not come for a while’: Dutch mayors concerned over non-essential trips from Belgium

Dutch authorities will begin discouraging non-essential trips by Belgians, after noting that many were crossing the borders to escape coronavirus rules on non-essential activities in their hometowns, such as shopping.

Mayors in Zeeland, the southernmost province of Netherlands, have said they are “concerned” to see citizens from Belgium and Germany flock into their region with little awareness of local coronavirus measures. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times