Belgium in Brief: Hug Your Children/Don’t Hug Your Children
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Belgium in Brief: Hug Your Children/Don’t Hug Your Children

Credit: Pexels/Pxhere/Belga

If you’ve ever been to see a magician, you’ve likely had one of those big “aha” moments where something is revealed that is totally alien to you.

Stick with me here.

Your older sibling tells you that there were two people inside the magician’s box, that the person in the audience was a plant, that something you were pretty certain was true is actually not and you are foolish to have thought so.

You go through a whole range of emotions – betrayal, anger, confusion, more anger – before eventually settling on acceptance because you have no other option. That spiral is basically what’s happening in Belgium right now after people face a potential blow to their already adapted Christmas plans.

You see, apparently, children are cuddle contacts, and always have been. TA-DA.

This news – which isn’t new, according to experts – rubs up against the logic of the other coronavirus rules, as children do not have to wear a face mask and are allowed to play in groups. This could potentially complicate things for Christmas, as on 24 and 25 December, a family can normally have only one ‘cuddle contact’, while a single person can see two visitors.

In practice, however, that means that your cuddle contact might have to be a child while their parent stays at home – which probably wasn’t the plan.

“This surprises people now, but actually we’ve been saying this for a couple of weeks,” Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said on Flemish tv Wednesday evening, “but we probably haven’t made that clear enough yet.”

But wait, there’s more, below.

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1. Children under 12 count as ‘cuddle contacts,’ but only indoors

Belgium’s coronavirus rule allowing one extra visitor per household for Christmas also includes children under 12 years old, but only if the gathering takes place indoors.

On Wednesday, the Crisis Centre clarified that children under 12 years old also count as so-called ‘cuddle contacts’, meaning that they also count as “full” visitors for the festivities. Read more.

2. How Belgian police will check people on Christmas Eve

While extra police patrols will be on the streets to make sure that people are respecting the coronavirus measures on Christmas Eve, they have made clear it will not be a witch hunt.

For most police zones across Belgium, the checks will focus on gatherings indoors and in the garden, with extra attention on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Read More.

3. Brexit: UK made ‘huge concessions’ in deal negotiations

The UK has made “huge concessions” in the Brexit negotiations, a French government source told AFP Wednesday.

The British negotiators agreed to give in on very important points relating in particular to fishing, said the source, which is the last point still blocking in the discussions, which could allow avoiding in extremis a “no-deal” only eight days before the final break-up. Read more.

4. Brussels police overwhelmed by escaping lockdown party-goers

A Russian TV channel has published video footage of how two female police officers were overrun after they tried to break up a lockdown party in Anderlecht.

The crew from Russia24 were on patrol in Brussels with two female officers from the Midi police zone, which includes Anderlecht. Just before 8:00 PM on Friday evening, they responded to a call for noise nuisance on the Boulevard de la Révision. Read More.

5. Coronavirus: fewer than 2,500 patients in hospital

Fewer than 2,500 coronavirus patients in Belgium are in hospital as the increase of daily average new coronavirus infections continues to slow down, according to the latest figures published by the Sciensano public health institute on Thursday.

Between 14 and 20 December, an average of 2,522 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 6% increase compared to the week before. Read More.

6. Vaccination campaign: What information will be stored?

The government yesterday agreed what data it will stock on people taking part in the Covid-19 vaccination campaign about to start in Belgium.

The clarification comes after misgivings expressed at the weekend by the Data Protection Authority (DPA) and by Absym, the association of medical trade unions. Both bodies argued that the Royal decree governing the issue gave carte blanche to the government to take and keep any private information it saw fit, without any built-in safeguards for the protection of privacy. Read more.

7. Brexit grief shows Article 50 doesn’t work, Flemish MEP warns

The ongoing uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the European Union shows that Article 50 is not fit for purpose, according to former Flemish Minister-President and current MEP Geert Bourgeois.

Speaking on Wednesday, Bourgeois called for changes to Article 50, which regulates the possibility of an EU member state leaving the EU, explaining that the current Brexit scenario is causing uncertainty in the economy. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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