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Belgium in Brief: Concerned About The Travel Ban

As many people are worrying about Belgium’s extended 1 April deadline for the non-essential travel ban coming very close to the Easter holidays, the European Commission has also expressed “a certain amount of concern.”

Even though Belgium’s Consultative Committee decided to extend its coronavirus measures on 5 February, the Commission was only officially informed that this also included the travel ban almost a week later.

Immediately after the announcement in January, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said that the measure was relatively far-reaching, but not illegal and that the Commission “would like it not to be extended.”

As Belgium now decided to extend the ban after all, Reynders requested “additional clarifications on the scope and limitations” of the measure.

On Sunday, Walloon Minister-President Elio Di Rupo opened up the possibility of the ban being lifted before April, saying that he “does not exclude the ban being lifted. But it could remain ‘strongly recommended’ not to go abroad.”

What do you think? Should to ban remain in place?
Let @johnstonjules know on Twitter.

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1. Belgium’s travel ban could be lifted before 1 April, says Di Rupo

The ban on non-essential travel, originally intended to expire on 1 March but extended for another month at the last meeting of the consultative committee, could be lifted before 1 April, Walloon minister-president Elio Di Rupo has said.

Last week in parliament, prime minister Alexander De Croo said the measure would come in for consideration next time the committee meets on 26 February. Speaking on RTL-TVi on Sunday, Di Rupo, who also sits on the committee, also opened up the possibility. Read More.

2. Flemish vaccination centres open today: how getting your vaccine works

Following some trial runs and several supply issues, the first vaccination centres in Flanders officially open their doors today.

The first vaccination centre in Beringen, in the Limburg province, opens at noon today, when first-line care providers – such as general practitioners, dentists and home care nurses – are invited and will come by, one by one according to their reservations. Read more.

3. Belgians saw 40% more work absences due to coronavirus

The average Belgian worker in the private sector was absent from work 40% more hours in 2020 compared to 2019, with absence rates peaking in the first and second lockdowns.

The absences amount to 11 extra days, or about one day per month, says Dirk Vanderhoydonck of Acerta, a Belgian human resources organisation who researched the matter. Read more.

4. SNCB wants ideas to develop cellars under Brussels Midi

Belgian railway company SNCB is asking the public for proposals as it moves ahead with the development of the empty basements under the tracks between Brussels’ Gare du Midi and the small ring.

The two large cellar spaces – nicknamed the ‘Palaces’ – which have stood empty for 40 years, have a combined surface area of about 22,000 square metres, according to SNCB. Read More.

5. Health Council advises hairdressers: Take care with hair-dryers

Hairdressers whose businesses have opened up again since this weekend need to be careful using hairdryers, to prevent the possible spread of Covid-19 in salons.

That’s the advice of the Superior Health Council (SHC), in a wide-ranging document issued today covering ventilation, air filtration and air conditioning to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Read More.

6. Police tighten rules on shooting at vehicles in wake of Mawda case

Police are tightening rules on shooting at a moving vehicle in the wake of the Mawda case, various media report on Monday.

Mawda was a two-year-old girl who was killed when a police officer fired his gun during a chase of a van carrying over 20 people including Mawda and her family. The officer was convicted to a one-year suspended prison sentence on Friday. Read More.

7. Vlaams Belang leader takes out illegal pepper spray in TV interview

Far-right Vlaams Belang party leader Tom Van Grieken took out pepper spray, a forbidden weapon in Belgium, during an interview with Flemish television channel VTM on Sunday.

Van Grieken added that he believes that “every woman in Flanders should have pepper spray in her handbag” and announced that his party will submit a proposal to legalise pepper spray. Read More.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times