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Belgium in Brief: Move Over Beyoncé, We Have Wilmès

Credit: Belga/Pixabay

The Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women has caused worlds to collide for many in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, with former Belgian PM Sophie Wilmès coming one place ahead of American singer, actress and record producer Beyoncé.

The annual list – which is led by Germany’s Angela Merkel – also features Ursula von der Leyen, Taylor Swift and Queen Elizabeth II.

The American business magazine has been running its list of powerful women for 17 years, and the list if made up of women from many different fields: business, politics, technology and media among others.

Wilmès is listed in her capacity as her country’s first-ever woman prime minister. At the age of 45, she is the tenth-youngest woman on the list – Taylor Swift (No 82) is youngest, and Queen Elizabeth (No 46) oldest. More on it here.

Now, on with the news.

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1. Children and teenagers make up more than 1 in 10 of all coronavirus patients

Children and teenagers now make up 14% of all coronavirus infections in Belgium, the Crisis Centre announced on Wednesday.

There has been a 33% increase in coronavirus infections among children aged 0 to 9 years old, virologist Steven Van Gucht announced. Teenagers (aged between 10 and 19 years old), for their part, are seeing an 11% increase in infections. Read more.

2. Will we pick which vaccine we take?

Following the news that the first UK patients have received the coronavirus vaccine, people in Belgium – and Europe – are starting to wonder just how things could look once they start here in 2021.

While the UK currently only has access to one vaccine – from Pfizer/BioNTech – there is every chance coming months could bring multiple options for vaccinations in Europe, providing they gain approval.

“It is very hard to say anything about this at this stage,” a European Commission spokesperson told The Brussels Times. As it stands, no vaccine has been approved for use by the European Medical Association (EMA), so no drug is currently eligible for use here, with no absolute timeline for when. Read More.

3. Belgian PM reminds Boris Johnson that Pfizer vaccine is ‘Made in Europe’

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo reminded Boris Johnson of the fact that the Covid-19 vaccine the UK started vaccinating its population with was “Made in Europe.”

De Croo took to Twitter after Johnson tweeted his thanks “to our NHS, to all of the scientists who worked so hard to develop this vaccine, to all the volunteers” and more as the first vaccines have been administered on what Health Secretary Matt Hancock is calling V-Day. Read more.

4. ‘I certify that the patient below is alive’: GPs sick of sick notes

An ongoing reliance on the so-called ‘doctor’s note’ has left practitioners in the country inundated with low priority requests, as they are called upon to help people get new wigs, claim they are hurt, or even prove they are alive.

In an op-ed on VRT, several Belgian GPs have signed a letter speaking out against the overwhelming number of doctor’s notes required of them in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, calling for a revamp of the system which sees them taking time away from vital services. Read More.

5. Belgium’s coronavirus reproduction rate edges closer to 1

The coronavirus reproduction rate in Belgium is nearing 1.0 again while other coronavirus indicators continue to drop slowly, according to the latest figures published by the Sciensano public health institute on Wednesday.

Between 29 November and 5 December, an average of 2,154 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 7% decrease compared to the week before. Read more.

6. Bpost resumes delivering all packages at home

Bpost will deliver all packages at home again instead of asking some people to pick up their mail at a so-called postal point, Minister for Public Enterprises Petra De Sutter told the House on Tuesday.

A peak in mail during the second coronavirus lockdown forced Bpost to have some clients pick up their mail rather than have it delivered, which seven out of ten customers affected agreed to. Read More.

7. Brexit: Johnson and von der Leyen to meet in Brussels tonight

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to travel to Brussels on Wednesday evening to discuss post-Brexit relations with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We will continue our discussion on the Partnership Agreement,” von der Leyen tweeted on Tuesday as the end of a Brexit transition period looms, after which the UK will no longer be part of the EU’s single market or customs union.  Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times