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Belgium in Brief: Doing Better Than Our Neighbours

Credit: Belga

The rate at which the coronavirus spreads is now lower in Belgium than in its neighbouring countries, health officials stated during a press conference on Wednesday.

Belgium’s infection rate – or reproduction number (R-number) – has dropped below that of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Luxembourg, said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

The Belgian figure currently stands at 0.78. As it remains below 1.0, it means that one person infected with coronavirus infects less than one other person, on average.

According to the countries’ latest official figures, the Netherlands currently reports an infection rate of 1.02, Germany reports a rate of 0.9, France reports 0.89, and Luxembourg has a reproduction rate of 1.

“We are doing well, but we are still a long way from the safe harbour,” Van Gucht said. “What we are doing now, is paying off. It is important to keep that up.”

On Friday, Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet to discuss the current measures, and decide on how exactly the country will manage to keep the figures low.

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1. What’s on Belgium’s Consultative Committee’s agenda on Friday?

Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet on Friday to evaluate the lockdown measures currently in force and discuss how to celebrate Christmas while still keeping the coronavirus in mind.

When Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that Belgium would go back into lockdown from until 13 December, he also stated that the shutdown of non-essential shops would be evaluated by 1 December.

While the situation is still too worrying to relax the current measures according to Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, all the trade federations are begging to be allowed to reopen. Read More.

2. ‘Bare minimum’: Belgian shops want to open by appointment

Belgium’s different federations for retail, entrepreneurs and traders are demanding that the Consultative Committee looks at options to make shopping by appointment possible in December.

Even though the current lockdown measures are set to remain in force until 13 December, the trade federations are hoping for a cautious relaxation of the rules for shops from this week’s Consultative Committee, as non-essential shops have had to keep their doors closed for almost four weeks now. Read More.

3. Belgium’s coronavirus hospitalisations drop below 5,000

There are now fewer than 5,000 coronavirus patients in hospital, according to the latest figures published by the Sciensano public health institute on Wednesday.

Between 15 and 21 November, an average of 3,142.0 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 35% decrease compared to the week before. Read more.

4. ‘No intention to kill’: Belgian cop facing no immediate jail over death of Kurdish toddler

Belgian prosecutors requested a suspended prison sentence for a police officer who fired at a moving van, killing a toddler, as they affirmed that he was aware that children were on board.

The sentence request concludes the second day of a high-profile trial over the death in 2018 of 2-year-old Mawda, an Iraqi-Kurdish child whose tragic death by a stray bullet has drawn international media attention and calls for justice from celebrities ranging from director Ken Loach to Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters.

Prosecutors said that the actions of the officer, identified as Victor J., were reckless and disproportionate to the situation but that the evidence did not support the theory that there was an intention to kill. Read More.

5. Belgian mobility minister eyes relaunch of free rail passes

Belgium’s Mobility Minister said that a free rail pass schemed launched to boost local tourism amid the coronavirus pandemic could be followed-up by a sequel.

Speaking to the Belgian Chamber on Tuesday, Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet lauded the Hello Belgium rail pass scheme as a “great success.” Read More.

6. Belgian PM confirms arrival of first coronavirus vaccines before year-end

Belgium will receive the first doses of Covid-19 vaccine before the end of the year, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed on Tuesday.

During a visit to Brussels Airport on Tuesday, De Croo confirmed previous reports that the first doses of the shot would be delivered to Belgium by late December. Read more.

7. Brussels Airlines will not make proof of coronavirus vaccination mandatory

Neither Brussels Airlines nor its parent company Lufthansa intend to ask passengers for proof of vaccination to enable them to board their planes, both companies said.

Brussels Airlines had, however, carried out a first test flight last Friday during which all passengers had to pass a rapid Covid-19 detection test in advance. Only those with negative results were allowed to board. Read more.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times