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Belgium in Brief: The Travelling Scapegoat

Belgium’s push to ban non-essential travel is dominating the political agenda, as we close out a week that certainly looked like it was going to end on a more positive note.

Spoiler – that looks less likely now. 

“When you travel you take virus with you in your suitcase,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said yesterday “we have to protect the good position in our country.”

Today De Croo will state his case, proposing an EU-wide ban on non-essential at the European summit today, and bringing the polarising topic of travel back to the forefront.

On one hand, cross border travel has had a measurable impact on figures, ultimately BECAUSE it has been measured. Tests on (many/some) returning travellers both Belgian and not have been a key talking point for experts, but that’s also because of the data they have access to.

That’s not spin, or propaganda, or travel bashing or giving an excuse – that’s just facts based on numbers.

But is this distracting from inside the country? Due to no such regimented testing within the country, it’s a lot harder to have measurable figures for people who don’t leave Belgium.

It’s like comparing oranges to a bag that should have contained oranges but there weren’t enough oranges.

You can have a good guess at what should have been in the bag, but it’s still difficult to compare.

Got something to add? Let @johnstonjules know on Twitter.

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1. De Croo confirms he will propose EU-wide non-essential travel ban

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has confirmed that he will propose an EU-wide ban on non-essential travel at the European summit today, in an effort to find a harmonised approach across the bloc.

As the European leaders will discuss a joint approach to handle the coronavirus pandemic again today, De Croo confirmed that he will plead for a “European solution” to restrict travel. Read more.

2. What’s on the agenda for the Consultative Committee tomorrow

Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet again on Friday to evaluate the situation and discuss possible new measures regarding travel.

While on Monday it was suggested that the Consultative Committee could meet earlier than Friday to take stricter travel measures, the initial date was kept as the government did not want to make decisions before the European summit on Thursday. Read More.

3. Belgian bar stops boycotting US products now Trump is gone

An Antwerp bar which made headlines worldwide after deciding to boycott all American products has announced that it will lift the ban now Donald Trump is no longer President.

In early 2017, Zeezicht café declared that it would stop selling all US products in protest of the appointment of Donald Trump as President. This meant four years of no Coca-Cola, American whiskey, Lay’s crisps, Heinz sauces, or even (Coca-Cola owned) Chaudfontaine water. Read More.

4. Up to 100 km/h winds expected ahead of snowy Friday

Belgium faces gusts of wind of up to 100 kilometres per hour on Thursday ahead of more snow in the highest parts of the country, according to the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI).

Thursday will have a rainy and windy start. While the sky is expected to clear up during the day, it is expected to get cloudy again in the afternoon, with more rain forecast in the evening. Read More.

5. Brussels Airlines scraps 900 flights in February and March

Brussels Airlines is to cancel 900 flights in February and March, the company has announced, because of travel restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline is having trouble filling flights in the first place, because of the international situation, with many destinations insisting on proof of negative tests, or imposing quarantine restrictions on new arrivals. Read more.

6. Belgian drunk drivers given keychains with names of children killed in traffic

People caught driving under the influence in Belgium will receive a keychain with the name of a child killed in a road accident, as part of a new campaign to warn against the effects of drinking and driving.

The campaign, set up by the Vias institute and the association Parents d’enfants victimes de la route (which translates to ‘Parents of children who were traffic victims’) will launch on Friday to coincide with the “weekend without alcohol behind the wheel.” Read More.

7. MEPs to vote on workers’ right to disconnect

MEPs are reportedly in favour of a legislative proposal that would reaffirm the right to be left alone outside working hours – in other words, not having to respond to requests by email, phone or otherwise if you have finished work for the day or are on holiday. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times