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Belgium in Brief: Is Barometer A Dirty Word?

Credit: Pixabay/Belga/MDK

If the word barometer makes you shudder, you clearly follow the coronavirus news religiously, congratulations.

For those of you blissfully unaware, let’s have a recap, because this isn’t the first time Belgium has tried to make something like this work regarding coronavirus.

On Monday 28 September, a Covid-19 barometer which would enable Belgium to finetune measures against the coronavirus pandemic was expected to be ready by Tuesday, then prime minister Sophie Wilmès said.

By 5 October, it would not be launched before it was perfect, according to (then) new Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

On 6 October it still had loose ends.

Next, on Tuesday 13 October, Belgium’s coronavirus barometer would be launched on Friday. It wasn’t.

By Saturday 17 October, it was going to take another week. It didn’t.

Things started to look less fixed on 23 October when Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said the committee had decided “to come back to this later.”

Then, finally, the back and forward came to an end on 10 November. “That barometer was brought up at a time when we believed that we could relax in steps and, that if the crisis hit us again, we could tighten up in steps again. In the meantime, we have learned the lesson that, unfortunately, it is not that simple,” Vandenbroucke said.

This time, however, things seem to be already beyond where they were before.

The “vaccination barometer” will show the progress made, contain figures on the number of people already vaccinated and the doses that have been delivered, and show how the country will go through the different stages of the vaccination strategy.

“We will then see how the curve evolves week after week,” said Sabine Stordeur, project manager of the Vaccination Task Force, in an online briefing of experts on Saturday. “This way, we will be able to monitor progress.”

More below, and other news too.

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. Belgium promises ‘vaccination barometer’ to keep track of vaccine rollout

Belgium is developing another barometer, this time to keep track of how many people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, several experts on the vaccination task force said this weekend. Read more.

2. The oldest Belgian (111) tests positive for Covid-19

Belgium’s oldest resident Julia Van Hool (111) has tested positive for coronavirus, according to reports in Belgian media.

Van Hool – who lives at the Sint-Jozef residential care centre in Lier – may be infected, but is not showing any serious symptoms at this time. Read More.

3. Close the border now, expert warns

The Dean of the University of Brussels’ health faculty called for a closing of Belgium’s borders. Dirk Devroey, who tweeted his call on Sunday, followed epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme in this plea.

“Closing borders seems the best option at the moment to avoid full lockdown and protect our economy,” he said. “But we need to do that NOW and not in 2 weeks when the British variant is massively in our country.” Read More.

4. Fake dyke at Ostend will measure the real power of the sea

An ambitious new experiment taking place at Raversijde by Ostend will allow scientists to measure exactly how hard the sea beats against the land, causing erosion. Read More.

5. Belgium’s daily coronavirus infections continue to rise

The increase in average new daily infections continues to rise, according to the latest figures published by the Sciensano public health institute on Monday.

Between 1 and 7 January, an average of 1,816 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 14% increase compared to the week before. Read More.

6. Belgium discusses monitoring system for travellers with new coronavirus strain

Belgium’s Coronavirus Testing Task Force is discussing a system that will allow for additional monitoring of travellers carrying a variant of the virus on their return to Belgium.

Speaking on Sunday on Flemish public television, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that had ask professor Herman Goossens (who leads the task force) to meet with Karine Moykens and Frank Robben on Sunday morning to discuss this monitoring. Read more.

7. Flemish minister takes up case of suspended psychologist

Flemish minister for equal opportunities Bart Somers (Open VLD) has called for an explanation from the Psychologists’ Commission over disciplinary action taken against one of its members, Kaat Bollen.

The Commission is the body that rules over the psychologist profession, and in March 2020 issued a ruling against Bollen, a psychologist who deals with relationships and sexual matters, and who is regularly to be seen in the media.

The Commission was acting on a complaint from a colleague, who drew the Commission’s attention to Bollen’s various media appearances, and in particular her Instagram account, which the plaintiff complained was indiscreet and sexually tinted. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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