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    Coronavirus: The main stories this Saturday morning

    © Belga

    These are the main issues relating to the Covid-19 pandemic in Belgium this morning.

    Erika Vlieghe, the infectious diseases expert who chairs the panel charged with the country’s exit from lockdown, has said she will no longer take part in meetings of the national security council, which makes the decisions on what restrictions to lift or apply.

    The experts on the one hand and politicians on the other have frequently clashed over measures to be taken, but Dr Vlieghe’s decision was triggered by statements from Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon that she had not opposed leaving the social bubble untouched at 15 people.

    That is completely unacceptable to me,” she said in an interview with De Morgen. “Like the other experts, I was in favour of a smaller bubble, and I said so several times during the meeting.”

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    The largest flare-up in the number of new cases of Covid-19 infections took place in Antwerp, with 431 new cases in seven days, according to the latest figures. Now research has indicated that the main hot-spots were wedding parties, young people hanging around together and shisha bars. Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever has already taken local measures to tackle the latter issue. 

    The list of orange and red destinations for foreign travel has been brought up to date, with new entries Vienna, Prague and Wales being added to the orange list. Spanish regions Aragon, Catalonia, the Basque country, Navarra, La Rioja and Extremadura are now coloured orange, while the formerly orange areas around Lleida in Catalonia and Huesca in Aragon are now red. The full list and the restrictions in place can be found on the website (EN) of the ministry of foreign affairs.

    • While other municipalities extend the areas where the wearing of a face mask is obligatory, Kortrijk in West Flanders has gone all out: mayor Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) has announced a mask must now be worn any time a person steps out of doors. The city has also reduced the social bubble to ten persons, five fewer than the bubble recommended by the national security council.

    Back in Antwerp, the Flemish association of general practitioners Domus Medica has backed a call from the provincial governor Cathy Berx (CD&V) for people to limit their own social bubble to two or three close friends, despite government recommendations for a bubble of no more than 15. The association said Antwerp has become a new red zone, and people ought to self-isolate after returning home from a trip to the city.

    • Flanders as a whole, meanwhile, has been declared zone orange by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Orange designates a region where the incidence (cases per 100,000 inhabitants) is between 20 and 59.9. From 60 upwards the zone becomes red.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times