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Belgium in Brief: Belgium On Strike

A mass strike in Belgium feels – somewhat bizarrely – like a return to some normality in Belgium. Only it isn’t.

Sure, many of us have missed the early morning realisation that we don’t have a way to get to work. There are still people commuting, but certainly not the masses cramming onto the one train still running an hour as we realised what was happening.

We didn’t have to make a frantic call to the bosses saying we’re “going to work from home” because we already are. I’ve not even seen anyone Tweeting about their work from home setup (but seriously, @ me, because mine still needs work).

Now, this isn’t just a transport strike – see more info here – but that’s often where it hits people the hardest.

But what I want to know is, has it hit you?

Let @johnstonjules know on Twitter.

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1. Disruption expected today as unions hold 24-hour strike

Train users can expect some disruption today, as rail workers’ unions join in a national strike lasting 24 hours.

The disruption to rail services actually started at 10:00 PM yesterday, as is customary, and will continue until 10:00 PM tonight. Read more.

2. Why Belgium only sells self-tests in pharmacies, while Germans buy them in supermarkets

From mid-April, coronavirus self-tests will become available in pharmacists in Belgium, but in Germany, people have already been able to buy them in most supermarkets over the past month.

In early March, when some German supermarket chains became the firsts to start selling the self-tests – in packs of five tests for €24.99 – they sold out in minutes, in part because many people from the Netherlands crossed the border to buy large numbers of them. Read more.

3. ‘Belgium should reach coronavirus peak by this week,’ says Geert Molenberghs

Although the number of hospitalisations and deaths as a result of coronavirus continues to increase, Belgium should reach the peak of infection rates by the end of this week, according to Geert Molenberghs, professor of biostatistics at UHasselt.

The increase in the infection rate is starting to slow down in the country, as this week a 22% increase was reported, down from 42% a week ago, he said. Read More.

4. Travelling will be possible this summer, Marc Van Ranst says

Belgian virologist, Marc Van Ranst, a key advisor to the government on the handling of the coronavirus crisis, believes travelling will be possible this summer. Read More.

5. Non-essential shops see up to 85% drop in turnover due to new rules

Non-essential stores in Belgium, which had to switch to appointment-based shopping last weekend, saw a 60 to 85% drop in their turnover, according to a survey from trade federation Comeos.

On Wednesday last week, the government decided to introduce stricter coronavirus fighting measures on the sector following an advanced Consultative Committee meeting, which meant that from Saturday, non-essential shops could remain open, but by appointment only. Read more.

6. Belgium’s schools close ahead of Easter break

Belgium’s schools will be closed and classes suspended this week ahead of the Easter holidays, following a decision taken at the latest Consultative Committee meeting on 24 March.

The closure, which was decided after several days of talks between the federal government and the communities responsible for education, was not unanimously welcomed. Read More.

7. A sunny week ahead

Belgium will see some sunshine this week, with a dry forecast and warm temperatures ahead.

It is expected to be dry and sunny on Monday afternoon, according to the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI), with a few high-level clouds in the sky. Belgians will be able to ditch their jackets, with temperatures ranging from 15°C in the Ardennes to 19°C in the centre. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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