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Belgium in Brief: Nothing Changes, Yet

The meeting of the consultative committee held this weekend concluded with a fizzle, without any new measures to tackle the recent flare-up of cases.

In the face of rising infections across the country, and new patients appearing particularly in the age groups 20-29 and 50-59, it was widely expected that something would change.

It had been reported that the committee might be considering some kind of strengthening of the measures still in place, such as ensuring proper distancing in cafes and restaurants, where the rules are not always scrupulously observed.

However, it didn’t. No new measures were decided, and ultimately Belgium is left waiting ahead of the next meeting on  Thursday, with no clear idea of what will change – if anything.

So, with that in mind, on to the news.

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. Coronavirus: Where are the hot-spots?

One of the issues that emerged from the meeting of the consultative committee with experts yesterday was the importance of identifying the clusters, or hot-spots, of the current flare-up in the number of new infections.

In its plans for a second wave of the epidemic – which now seems to be upon us – the national security council considered the emergency measure of introducing a limited lockdown – on a provincial or even more local level.

That is an admission of the fact that a nationwide lockdown, as happened in March and which has still not been entirely lifted, would be an absolute catastrophe for the economy, and would stand little chance of being respected by the population.

So where are these hot-spots?

2. Belgian average rises to 154 coronavirus infections per day

An average of 154.1 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium during the past week, according to figures by the Federal Public Health Service on Monday.

The trend of new infections per day has risen by 66% over the 7-day period from 10 to 16 July, compared to the average of 93 new infections per day the week before.  Read more.

3. Corona crisis in Belgium: Prime Minister looks back

The prime minister, Sophie Wilmès, has taken the time to looks back on the development of the crisis over which she presided.

Speaking to the French-speaking public broadcaster RTBF, she admitted she would have regrets about the way things were handled, but in words that echo the words of the prayer of St Augustine for purity and chastity: “But not yet”.

To begin with, she described the Carnival holiday period, when the pandemic was at Belgium’s gates – a situation she describes as “potentially problematic”.

“I was in contact with political representatives of the regions because we knew that we were going to have to work together when things started to speed up. For example, we had to manage the start of the new school term. We were not yet at the peak of the crisis”. Read More.

4. Van Ranst: ‘We have a chance, a week’ to reverse rising figures

Now is the time to act to tackle the recent coronavirus (Covid-19) flare-ups in Belgium, Marc Van Ranst told VTM on Sunday.

The consultative committee met on Sunday to evaluate the current coronavirus situation but did not agree on any new measures to tackle the recent flare-up of cases in Belgium. Read more.

5. Belgium restarts coronavirus press conference three times per week

As the coronavirus figures in Belgium are rising again, the national health institute Sciensano and the Crisis Centre will start holding a coronavirus press conference again three times per week, they announced.

The press briefings will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The first one will be held today at 12:00 noon. Read more.

6. Belgium’s 6 ‘Golden Rules’: a recap

With the news that Belgium will not implement any new measures to tackle the recent flare-up of cases, it’s time for a reminder of the rules already in place, as reiterated on Sunday. Read more.

7. Belgium extends temporary unemployment

Federal Labour Minister Nathalie Muylle has announced the extension to yearend of a measure facilitating temporary unemployment, amid expectations of a wave of requests in this regard from employers.

Speaking in the Chamber earlier in the week, Minister Muylle said she was ready to respond positively to such requests. She then followed this up with a public announcement that the measure would, in fact, be extended. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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