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Belgium in Brief: Good Grief

Credit: Belga

Two days ago I closed my computer, muted Slack and went into the weekend hopeful.

In hindsight, that might have been a little naïve.

Monday has come around, it just started snowing, Google ads thinks I want to buy sofas and gates (I don’t) and we’re on the countdown to another committee meeting.

I’ll say it again: good grief.

What’s on the agenda remains unclear, but here’s what we’re seeing so far:

Schools – The education sector is currently looking into the full reopening of schools next week.

Bars reopening 1 May – Different camps are forming, and it’s not even sure the topic is on the agenda. Some want things to reopen, some want the opposite. Others want to turn the system upside down and focus on “covid-safe” labels.

Foreign Travel ban – By all accounts, it will be discussed.  Federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke says it will be lifted.

That’s a lot to take in, but I want to know what you think.

Should schools stay shut? Have bars suffered long enough? Does the travel ban matter at the moment?

Let @johnstonjules know on Twitter.

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1. Self-employed: Reopen on 1 May and not a day later

The union for the self-employed, SNI, has called for the date of May 1 to be retained for the reopening of the economy.

SNI was responding to a statement made yesterday by Pedro Facon, head of the coronavirus taskforce, when he called for the reopening of the care and restaurant sector to be delayed until mid-May so that the evolution of the epidemic could be studied in the meantime. Read more.

2. Individual ‘Covid-safe’ labels should replace re-opening by sector, experts argue

Belgium’s coronavirus relaxation strategy should be replaced with a ‘Covid-safe’ label for places based on the measures they implement, according to three experts in epidemiology and infectious diseases.

This label should be given based on the steps taken to guarantee the safety of people, and replace the sector by sector plans currently in place, according to epidemiologist Marius Gilbert and infectious diseases specialists Nathan Clumeck and Leila Belkhir said in an opinion piece. Read more.

3. Framework for test events should be set by Consultative Committee, says Vandenbroucke

One of the decisions to be made during Wednesday’s Consultative Committee will concern the conditions under which ‘test’ events can take place in Belgium, according to Federal Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.

Test events in the Netherlands showed that they can be held safely, provided that a number of measures are followed, and now Belgium will also lay out the framework for such experiments, Vandenbroucke said in VRT’s Het Journaal. Read More.

4. VUB research uncovers discrimination in Leuven rental market

Recent VUB research showed structural discrimination against ethnic minorities, wheelchair users, and blind people with assistance dogs when it comes to finding housing in the Leuven rental market.

“As a victim of discrimination, it’s often hard to provide solid evidence that you’re discriminated against,” VUB’s Prof. Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe, who co-led the research, told The Brussels Times. Read more.

5. 200 asylum seekers could be helping in healthcare sector in Belgium

Around 200 asylum seekers could be eligible to work in the healthcare sector in Belgium based on their degrees or relevant experience, according to a survey conducted by Fedasil at the request of Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi.

The survey from the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers looked at the number of people with a recent degree or experience in health care in centres that receive applicants for international protection. Read More.

6. Young man (21) dies attempting to flee police at lockdown party

A 21-year-old man has died after falling from a hotel window in Antwerp while trying to escape police raiding a lockdown party.

The incident took place at about 4:00 AM at a hotel on the Meistraat in the city centre. Hotel managers had received complaints about noise nuisance, and had already warned the people occupying the room. Read More.

7. Woman injured by exploding World War One shell

A 60-year-old woman was injured this weekend on her farm at Langemark-Poelkapelle in West Flanders when a shell dating back to the First World War exploded.

The area is part of the Westhoek region that made up the front lines of the fighting in World War One, leading to unexploded ordnance – known as the ‘iron harvest’ – still being found more than a century later. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times