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Belgium in Brief: Belgium Begins Damage Control

Now I’m by no means a communications expert, but not telling citizens that coronavirus measures are being extended by over a month seems like a bad call – even if it is only a “worst-case scenario.”

Yet that is exactly what happened when Belgium’s coronavirus measures were announced, or not announced, in the new Ministerial Decree that was published on Tuesday.

So, for now, Belgium’s current measures against the spread of the coronavirus will be extended until 1 March – unless that changes, which it totally could. The extension was not announced as “it is only a formality,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said on Wednesday morning, adding that the date of 1 March is “not set in stone.”

The new change is a “worst-case scenario,” Verlinden explained, before immediately adding that the government “certainly does not want to relax the measures too soon.”

So in recap, this extended deadline is a formality and a worst-case scenario of a measure which the government does not want to relax too soon.

Then, in the time I was writing this – Brussels announced an extension of curfew, so read about that here.

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. Flanders will vaccinate all people who want to before summer

Flanders will be able to vaccinate all people in Flanders who want to before the start of the summer, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon announced during a press conference on Wednesday.

If the pharmaceutical companies continue to produce and deliver sufficient vaccines, “this will enable us to give all Flemish people who wish to do so at least one shot before the start of the summer holidays,” Jambon said. “And who knows, maybe even more.” Read More.

2. Expats disproportionally hit by Belgium’s Covid-19 testing policy, data shows

A sudden spike in infections in Brussels – which saw numbers almost double (+94%) in a week – may have been placed at the feet of travellers, but further information from Sciensano has shown that while they may be at the root of the numbers, it was almost impossible that they were not going to be. Read More.

3. Closing borders would be ‘sensible measure’, expert says

Belgium should consider closing its borders according to biostatistician Geert Molenberghs, who is the third expert to call for a border closure in recent days. Read More.

4. ‘Incomprehensible’: Belgium’s unannounced extension of covid measures under fire

A late night update to Belgium’s Covid fighting measures – extending the current rules by over a month – has come under criticism in the media this morning. Read more.

5. Population: One in eight Belgian residents is a foreigner

Roughly one in eight residents in Belgium is a foreigner, while one in five has a foreign background, according to figures from the government’s official statistics office Statbel.

From a population of 11.5 million people on 1 January, 7.8 million are Belgian through and through, born in Belgium to two Belgian parents. Read more.

6. Belgium’s coronavirus infections rise by 30%

The increase in average new daily infections has risen to 30%, according to the latest figures published by the Sciensano public health institute on Wednesday.

Between 3 and 9 January, an average of 2,070.3 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 30% increase compared to the week before. Read More.

7. Former city councillor gets eight years for visa trafficking

A court in Antwerp has sentenced Melikan Kucam, former Mechelen city councillor, to eight years in prison for selling humanitarian visas for his own profit.

Kucam represented N-VA on the Mechelen city council when he was given the job of allocating humanitarian visas allowing people in need to come to Belgium. Instead, he decided to use the visas for members of his own religious community of Assyrian Christians. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times