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Belgium in Brief: Hoping For Snow

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but no matter what news is going on, there’s also always the slightly hopeful story that there could be snow.

Every news site – us included – tried to predict a white Christmas, a snow-covered new year, a blanketed whatever-this-week-in-between-the-two-is.

No matter the big stories, people always want to know if the rare occasion will come to pass, if they can build a meagre snowman, or hope for a snow day.

As the year runs out, the news is far less airy than normal. There are no markets to write about, no tourist numbers to report, no inventive, insane or unsuccessful winter culture news.

Instead, we have Covid and Vaccines and Brexit, with no end in sight for at least a while.

At least, perhaps, we might have snow.

Enjoy your time off – if you have any – here’s 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. All returning residents should require a negative corona test, Belgian expert warns

Everyone returning to Belgium from abroad should be required to present a negative coronavirus test, regardless of if they are a resident or a tourist, according to infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe. Read more.

2. Antwerp laboratory becomes latest victim of cyber-attack

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An Antwerp laboratory working closely on the management of the Covid-19 epidemic has been the victim of a cyber-attack. The hackers are demanding a ransom.

The attack took place on the General Medical Laboratory (AML) in the Antwerp district of Hoboken. Hackers installed ransomware on the lab’s website, bringing it to a standstill. As is typical in a case of a ransomware attack, the hackers are demanding a ransom before they release the site from captivity. Read More.

3. Disappointment over year-end premium for healthcare workers

It seemed like the most fitting end to a horrific year for the healthcare workers of Belgium: a one-off payment of €985 in token of thanks of a grateful nation.

The reality was somewhat different: the premium was subject to the same tax and other deductions as any other income. Result: once the sum of €985 arrived in the workers’ bank accounts, it had been reduced by more than half. Read More.

4. Belgian Brits plan candle-lit vigil outside UK embassy

A group of Brits in Belgium have announced that they plan to mark the last day of the UK’s transition out of the European Union with a candle-lit vigil outside of the British Embassy Brussels. Read More.

5. 2021: Stand by for the post-Covid baby-boom

Gynaecologists at Belgium’s largest maternity unit expect to deliver 400-500 more new babies next year than normal, thanks to the Covid-19 crisis.

The GZA Sint-Augustinus in Antwerp has the largest maternity unit in the country, and the prediction is the work of one of the gynaecologists, Dr. Johan Wiemeersch, who is also the spokesperson for the Flemish Association of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Read More.

6. EMA unlikely to recommend AstraZeneca vaccine in January

It’s unlikely that the AstraZeneca / Oxford coronavirus vaccine will be recommended for approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in January, an EMA official said on Tuesday.

EMA does not have enough information about the vaccine, said the Agency’s Deputy Executive Director, Noël Wathion. “At the moment, AstraZeneca has only provided data on their clinical trials to the European Medicines Agency,” he added. Read more.

7. Death toll rises in nursing home after infected Sinterklaas visit

A total of 24 residents of the Hemelrijck nursing home in Mol have died since receiving a visit from a coronavirus infected Sinterklaas on 4 December.

That death toll means that around one in eight residents in the nursing home died of Covid-19 after the event. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times