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Belgium in Brief: Belgium Has Some Explaining To Do

The country of Belgium is facing the political equivalent of being called to the principal’s office, albeit for something that nobody told it not to do.

After it decided to close borders to non-essential travel – a push beyond the current recommendations at an EU level – European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders wants Belgium to explain what it was thinking.

The Belgian government has prohibited, from 27 January to 1 March, recreational or tourist travel to and from Belgium, to prevent a potential resurgence of the epidemic.

“There is a freedom of the Member States to go further or less far, but it is important to have very strong coordination. This decision must therefore be explained and justified. Concerning its legality, in the end, the control is done by the judicial authorities,” Reynders added.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has already announced his intentions last Thursday, and faced no opposition from heads of state or government, with some even expressing support for the measure.

So, what do you think? Did Belgium go too far? Should Europe follow? Let @johnstonjules know on Twitter.

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. Covid-19 Testing in Belgium: Who, What, When, Where & How

From this week, new rules on getting tested and quarantining are in force in Belgium, as the latest update to the measures also made room for a broader testing policy.

Following the Consultative Committee on Friday, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke stated that Belgium has “an enormous testing capacity” that will be used to test “very broadly.” Read More

2. What we know about Belgium’s ‘declaration on honour’ for travel

As non-essential travel to and from Belgium will be banned from Wednesday, anyone wanting to get in or out of the country will be required to carry a “declaration on honour” to prove that their border-crossing is, in fact, essential.

A template form for the declaration on honour – which is a statement in which a traveller declares that cross-border trip falls under a category of journeys that are considered essential by the authorities – will be made available online so it can be downloaded and printed if necessary. Read More.

3. Nearly 1 in 5 new infections detected in children and teenagers

Almost one in five new Covid-19 infections are currently detected in children and teenagers in Belgium, health officials stated during a press conference on Tuesday.

Over the past week, the biggest increase in the number of infections was seen in children (+84%) and teenagers (+18%), according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht. Read More

4. EU in contract dispute with AstraZeneca on timely vaccine delivery

The European Commission is concerned about the delays in the deliveries and has started talks with AstraZeneca to ensure that the company meets its contractual obligations.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is currently in the final stages of the approval process with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). If all requirements are met, EMA could recommend market authorisation by the end of this week.

But there is a problem on the supply side, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a press statement Monday evening (25 January). Read More.

5. Belgium will combat sexism in the public space

Belgium will focus on combatting sexism in the public space, both in real life and online over the next few months, the interministerial conference for women’s rights decided on Monday. Read more.

6. Snow expected in Belgium tonight

Snow is expected in Belgium tonight after a relatively dry Tuesday, according to forecasts by the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI).

Cloudiness will be variable over the east and north-east of Belgium on Tuesday, with possibly a light shower or some snow in the High Ardennes, according to the RMI. The other regions will see wide clearings before the arrival of clouds from the west in the afternoon. A shower will be possible at the end of the day on the coast. Read More.

7. Syringes for extra vaccines face potential shortages, producer warns

The syringe needed to extract the sixth dose from a vial of the Pfizer – BioNTech vaccine is currently limited in production capacity, American syringe producer Becton Dickinson said on Monday. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times