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Belgium in Brief: And The Word Of The Year Is…

Credit: Belga/Facebook

It’s hit that time in the year where we reflect. Trips missed, changes to everyday life, and far less time spent with friends and family.

It’s also the time of year that Van Dale, the makers of the Dutch dictionary, picks a word of the year, and what a year it has been.

The options are seemingly endlessly depressing. Masks? Vaccine? Maybe even coronavirus have all become words that are uttered daily, but thankfully the winner is a little more cutesy.

You see, knuffelcontact ‘Cuddle contact’ has been voted the word of the year in Flanders.

A cuddle contact is a person, apart from any family members, whom you’re allowed to have close (physical) contact with. It was first used by Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke at a Consultative Committee press conference. The word even made international news.

The word won more than half of the 25,000 votes, coming in at 53.2%. The second and third place – ‘covidioot’ (covidiot) and ‘hoestschaamte’ (coughing shame) – were far behind, with 8.7% and 7.3% of the votes respectively.

Just as well the word wasn’t picked from the last month alone when another less wholesome phrase has taken over, but at least it gives me a lead into my next point. After news broke this weekend of another one, let me be very clear on this – you can’t have a sex party – more on that below.

With that, on with 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. ‘If necessary’ Belgium will take new measures on Friday

Faced with mounting infection rates, Belgium once again could be facing strict measures on the run-up to the festive period, according to Federal Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke.

The latest figures – published Tuesday – show that the average number of new daily coronavirus infections in Belgium has risen for the third day in a row, and to Vandenbroucke, this acceleration opens up the potential need for further measures. Read more.

2. Belgian bar owner founds religion to bypass lockdown rules

A Belgian bar owner has made headlines across the country after announcing that he would start his own religion in order to take advantage of current coronavirus rules allowing allows religious ceremonies, but forces bars to stay shut.

Xavier Troisi, owner of the Café Crayon in Ostend, took to Facebook to announce his revelations, which will in principle allow him to see 15 clients every Sunday.

“Followers, worshippers and other fans! Those who believe in Crayonism are now welcome to attend the service every Sunday at 11:00 AM,” Troisi, wrote in the purely satirical post. Read More.

3. Belgian police shut down 50-person cross-border sex party

Belgian police shut down a sex party with over 50 attendees, who all came from France, in the Belgian town of Virton in the Luxembourg province, as it violated the coronavirus measures.

The police officers reportedly found multiple people naked at what was a sex party for the 28th birthday of a French woman, who had rented a Belgian vacation house for the occasion.

Those present were said to have paid her €250 for an “all-in” party, including alcohol and the services of the escorts who were reportedly also present. Read More.

4. Belgian superspreader Sinterklaas infects 118 people

A visit from Sinterklaas to a Belgian nursing home has resulted in 118 new coronavirus infections, according to the latest figures reported by local media.

At present, 98 residents and 20 staff members are infected following a visit to the centre in Mol, Antwerp, GVA reports. Read More.

5. Steven Van Gucht wins prize for clear language

Virologist Steven Van Gucht is this year’s winner of a prize honouring people who stood out for their use of clear and unambiguous language.

The Sciensano spokesperson caught the attention of Wablieft, the Centre for Clear Language, for his explanations about the coronavirus crisis. Van Gucht speaks at the National Crisis Centre’s press conference on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and often gives interviews to further explain certain aspects of the crisis and its evolution. Read more.

6. How a vaccine developed so quickly can still be safe

The rapid development of a coronavirus vaccine does not mean there is any inherent risk, and proper policy has been followed, according to Belgian health experts.

Facing several months focused on the Covid-19 vaccines and their administration, officials explained why – despite the accelerated development – they will be safe for use.

“If all goes well, the vaccines against the coronavirus, or at least some of them, will be developed and registered within only a year,” said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht. Read More.

7. Belgian shops want extra measures as neighbouring countries lockdown

Following the announcement of the closure of non-essential shops in Germany and the Netherlands, trade federation Comeos is requesting a consultation with the Belgian authorities.

The trade and services federation expects that some German and Dutch customers will cross the border in the coming days and weeks to shop in Belgium. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times