Belgium in Brief: (Not) Alone For Christmas?

Belgium in Brief: (Not) Alone For Christmas?
Credit: Belga/Pexels/Pixabay

Several politicians on both sides of Belgium’s language border are adding some extra fuel to the fire started by the retail sector, by announcing that they want to relax the coronavirus rules for the Christmas period.

“The impact of the lockdown on people’s mental wellbeing is a huge challenge. That’s why the prospect of warm holidays with our loved ones, albeit in a limited circle, is an absolute must,” said CD&V party president Joachim Coens.

Leader of the Francophone liberals MR, Georges-Louis Bouchez, who had earlier already stated that he did not want to celebrate Christmas “over Skype,” is now pleading for temporary exceptions to the curfew and the ban on gatherings.

To make the holidays more festive, most of Belgium’s neighbouring countries are allowing some relaxations of the rules during the end-of-year period: France lifts its curfew, Germany allows gatherings of up to ten people, and the UK will allow a “five-day Christmas Covid bubble” of up to three households.

For Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has already stated that big relaxations are not in the cards here, as a third “Christmas wave” has to be avoided at all costs.

However, nothing is certain until De Croo announces it during the press conference following the Consultative Committee meeting tomorrow. Once we know more, so will you.

Now, on to the news.

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 shops should reopen ‘as soon as possible,’ minister says

All stores in Belgium should be reopened “as soon as possible,” said Federal Minister of the Self-Employed, David Clarinval ahead of the Consultative Committee on Friday.

The sector federations’ proposal to the Consultative Committee – which will meet on Friday – to only receive customers by appointment in December, is not enough, according to Clarinval. Read More.

2. How Belgium’s neighbouring countries are handling Christmas

While Belgium’s Consultative Committee will decide on rules for the Christmas period on Friday, most of the neighbouring countries have already announced specific measures for the end-of-year festivities. Read More.

3. Belgium surpasses 16,000 coronavirus deaths

As Belgium passes the mark of 16,000 coronavirus deaths, the number of hospitalisations continues to drop, according to the latest figures published by the Sciensano public health institute on Thursday.

Between 16 and 22 November, an average of 3,082 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 35% decrease compared to the week before. Read more.

4. Study throws light on suicides among the over-45s

Suicide prevention organisations need to pay more attention to the socio-economic situation of people aged 45-60 at risk of committing suicide, according to a new study.

The study is published by the Flemish expertise centre for suicide prevention (VLESP), and was run by the Suicide Research Unit at the university of Ghent.

The Flemish government made a commitment to reduce the number of suicides by 20% by 2020, based on the figures from the year 2000. The latest set of available figures, from 2016, showed that the trend was positive for all age groups but one – those aged 45 to 60. Read more.

5. PCR-tests, rapid tests, self-tests: how Belgium’s latest testing strategy works

As a number of new kinds of tests to detect a Covid-19 infection are becoming available, Belgium is updating its testing strategy to incorporate them.

While PCR tests (nose swabs) are still a very important part of Belgium’s Covid-19 testing strategy, new techniques such as rapid tests will be added, according to Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon.

“PCR tests remain the gold standard in testing policy because they have the greatest reliability,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday. “However, as scientific developments provide us with new techniques, we can now start working with them.” Read More.

6. ‘Period poverty’: Belgium called on to make menstrual products free

Following the announcement that Scotland became the first country in the world to make menstrual products free for everyone, several organisations are pleading for the same measure in Belgium.

The Scottish measure aims to counter so-called “period poverty,” the phenomenon that many women and people who menstruate cannot always afford to buy tampons, sanitary pads and other menstrual products.

According to a recent survey by Caritas Vlaanderen, an organisation combatting poverty in Flanders, one in eight women (12%) in Flanders between 12 and 25 years old sometimes do not have enough money to buy the necessary sanitary products. Read more.

7. Antwerp police bust 99 guests at lockdown wedding and bar mitzvah

Police in Antwerp arrested dozens of people celebrating at a Jewish wedding and a bar mitzvah, in two separate violations of the coronavirus ban on gatherings.

Officers said they received reports that two “relatively large” gatherings were taking place on the same night in the Flemish city, although it remains unclear whether they were related. Read More.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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