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Belgium in Brief: We Need A Belgian Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, the day when the all-knowing Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

Amid the uncertainty that is life at the moment, it feels like we could use a similar predictive measure in Belgium to give us something to hold onto, even if the rate of accuracy is far from consistent.

Will it keep raining? Will hairdressers actually open? Will Marc Van Ranst tweet? Will borders reopen?

How great it would be if we could wait for the Belgian equivalent to tell us. Which for most of those questions, I guess, is De Croo?

So will the Consultative Committee come out of its burrow this Friday? Or will we be faced with six more weeks of lockdown?

Not a clue.

Maybe we should nominate someone different? We’re open to suggestions.

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. No fines for red-zone returnees who skipped test

Among the travellers who refused to get tested for coronavirus after returning from a red zone, no one has been fined yet, De Standaard reports on Tuesday.

Neither the federal police, which also collects statistics from the local police, nor the college of public prosecutors, nor Karine Moykens – president of the inter-federal Testing & Tracing Committee – are aware of any fines, according to the newspaper. Read more.

2. ‘False hope’: Experts denounce calls to prioritise vaccines for under 25s

An open letter urging Belgium to prioritise 16 – 25-year-olds for coronavirus vaccinations has prompted polarising reactions across the county as the merits of the proposal come up for public debate.

The letter – written by a group of about 40 adults from various sectors in Flanders – has been making headlines across the country with the call to focus on Belgium’s youth. “We want to give up our place to the young people,” Heidi De Pauw, CEO of Child Focus, and Sara Vercauteren, managing director of PR agency Bepublic, wrote. Read More.

3. Brussels hotels attempt ‘cuddle contact’ relaunch

A new push by the Brussels Hotels Association on the days surrounding Valentines is aiming to attract customers to the cities struggling hotel sector, which has seen record lows in the past 12 months.

The “cuddle contact” plan – which will run from 12 to 21 February aims “to offer everyone a moment of escape with their +1, their close contact, their partner or their best friend by allowing them to stay in the most beautiful hotel rooms at a friendly price, and to enjoy a meal delivered to their room, or room service.” Read More.

4. Extra police in Brussels Cinquantenaire Park after attempted rape

Security in Brussels’ Cinquantenaire area will be improved after a woman was almost raped near the park in January, the mayors of Brussels-City, Philippe Close, and Etterbeek, Vincent de Wolf, announced on Monday.

The mayors have asked their respective police services, the Brussels-Capital Ixelles zone and the Montgomery zone, to strengthen security, and they will consult with the police, Brussels Environment and the prevention services to review and improve the safety of the park with better lighting, among other things. Read More.

5. De Croo’s home vandalized with swastikas

Multiple swastikas were found spray-painted onto the home of Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo this morning.

There were seven in total, painted on both the letterbox and the outside of the house in Michelbeke. Read More.

6. Suspect arrested following stabbing in Brussels metro station

A suspect has been arrested following a stabbing at Gare de l’Ouest in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean on Monday afternoon, confirmed the Brussels public prosecutor’s office.

A man with a knife stabbed people before Brussels West police intervened around 3:00 PM, according to initial reports. Read More.

7. Magritte’s ‘The month of the harvest’ goes up for auction

The painting ‘The month of the harvest’ by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, will be on sale at Christie’s on 9 March, the auction house announced on Monday.

The painting from 1959 is currently valued between 10 and 15 million pounds. Other surrealist artworks from the Claude Hersaint collection will also be on sale at the same auction.” Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times