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Belgium in Brief: 50 Ways To Use Your Rail Pass

Credit: Belga

Remember the free Rail Pass?

Well, I just discovered mine does a great job propping up a table with a wobbly leg.

I can’t, however, say it has been so successful at providing free trips for people, considering it expires tomorrow and only 30% of free journeys were used.

When it was first unveiled, the 12 free ticket pass held the promise of local tourism, trips to the seaside for tiny grey shrimp, and a jaunt to the Ardennes.

It was an incredibly appealing offer, in principle, even when the start date was delayed to 5 October 2020.

However, as one reader put it, “there was no reason to go anywhere as we’ve been in semi lockdown since November.”

That simple fact makes this whole thing feel less like a bonus, and more like the vaguely teasing emails I get from airlines encouraging me to book a summer holiday.

“Look what you could do if the world weren’t on fire.”

There’s been no official line on what will happen, or if the scheme will be extended, so I guess we wait and see what happens to the passes we haven’t used.

For now, however, great potential for holding up a table. Seriously.

Have you managed to use your pass (for a trip or otherwise?) Let @johnstonjules (me) know on Twitter.

Another thing I learned, people really like endives. 
Feel like you’re missing out?
There’s a load of recipes from readers here.

BUT WAIT, one last thing: Want news from The Brussels Times in your inbox every morning? Sign up for The Recap, a free daily newsletter launching later this month 1 April containing all the stories you need to know from the day before. It goes great with your morning coffee. 

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1. Second self-test approved for use by Belgian health authorities

Belgium’s Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) has approved a second coronavirus rapid test that can soon be sold as a self-test.

In addition to the rapid tests developed by Roche, a Biosynex rapid test will also be available from pharmacies from 6 April as part of Belgium’s “testing strategy 2.0.” Read more.

2. Belgium starts vaccinating risk groups in April: how to check if you’re on the list

Belgium’s vaccination campaign will enter a new phase in April when people with an underlying condition between 18 and 65 years old will start receiving their jabs.

The list of people with comorbidities, who are considered at increased risk due to their condition, includes an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million people across the country, according to the Sciensano national health institute. Read more.

3. AstraZeneca vaccine renamed ‘Vaxzevria’

The coronavirus vaccine produced by the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company is now called Vaxzevria, the Swedish medicine agency Läkemedelsverket announced based on data from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The vaccine itself remains unchanged, but the Swedish agency considers the new name important, as it is accompanied by other things, such as new labelling and packaging. Read More.

4. Brexit & Covid-19: re-opened Mini-Europe tackles a huge year

After months of closure, Mini-Europe, the outdoor museum at the foot of the Atomium which allows visitors to travel all over Europe in a few hours, has reopened to a different Europe than the one it closed to. Read more.

5. Prices on the Brussels housing market fall due to working from home

The average selling price for a house in Brussels fell by 3% in the first months of this year, compared to the same period in 2020, while flats became slightly more expensive.

The dips in the Brussels housing market are being attributed to the increase in people working at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Read More.

6. Phone data investigations: Belgian law could be hanging by a thread

Police, security services and other investigators will be pacing the floor in the coming month anticipating a judgement by the Constitutional Court that could, they say, undermine one of the major tools of modern crime-fighting.

The problem concerns telephone data and a Belgian law that obliges all phone service providers to keep a record of all data traffic for 12 months. Read More.

7. Brad Pitt spotted in Brussels

Brad Pitt arrived in Brussels by private jet on Monday afternoon, according to reports from local media.

The movie star was spotted by an HLN photographer, who managed to snap a few photos. “We had received a tip from France that Brad Pitt was ready to take a flight from Paris to Brussels,” the photographer told Qmusic. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times