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Belgium in Brief: No Longer Number One

Credit: Belga/Wikipedia

After topping the list of European countries with the highest number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants for a little over a week, Belgium is now no longer first.

The Czech Republic and Luxembourg are currently recording worse figures.

At the beginning of this week, Belgium still topped the list of European countries with 1,633 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks. In the meantime, however, that number has fallen to 1,285, according to Sciensano, which based its report on figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

While Belgium’s figures are dropping, however, the country has passed the symbolic mark of half a million Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic today.

So, what else is new? Prime Minister Alexander De Croo was criticised for congratulating Joe Biden on winning the presidential elections in the US, Belgium will make it possible for non-binary people to identify as ‘X’, and the mayor of a beach town wants to suspend the recent free rail pass scheme.

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1. Belgium reaches total of more than half a million Covid-19 cases

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium in March, more than 500,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Monday.

Between 30 October and 5 November, an average of 9,487.1 new people tested positive per day over the past week, which is a 40% decrease compared to the week before.

The total number of confirmed cases in Belgium since the beginning of the pandemic is 500,789 – more than half a million. The total reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died as a result of the virus. Read more.

2. Belgium no longer has the highest infection rate in Europe

Belgium is no longer the European country with the highest number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants, thanks to gradually improving infection rates.

The Czech Republic and Luxembourg are currently recording worse figures, according to Sciensano’s daily report. Read more.

3. Belgium to introduce ‘X’ as third, non-binary gender

Belgium’s new government will introduce gender-neutrality throughout its term and make it possible for non-binary citizens to use the gender identifier “X.”

Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said gender inclusion and self-determination will be one of the policies he will work on throughout his tenure, according to a general policy note released last week.

Van Quickenborne’s note follows a Constitutional Court ruling last year which said Belgium’s law on transgender people should be made more inclusive, the Belga news agency reports. Read more.

4. Belgium’s prime minister criticised after congratulating Biden

Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo was one of numerous Belgian officials to congratulate president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris on Twitter on Saturday.

“Congratulations @JoeBiden with your election as 46th President of the United States,” he tweeted. “A record number of people have cast their vote in this election. This illustrates the vibrancy of the American political life and its democracy.”

The tweet prompted numerous dissatisfied Belgians to point out that, in their opinion, democracy had not worked in Belgium, as Open-Vld, De Croo’s party, received a mere 12% of the vote, putting them in seventh place in terms of their share of the vote. Read more.

5. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris: What you need to know

Four days after Americans took to the polls for the 2020 US elections, former vice-president Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in enough states to be projected as the winner, which also means his running mate Kamala Harris will be America’s next vice-president.

Harris will be making history as the first female, first African-American and first Asian-American to become vice-president of the United States. With that, here’s what you need to know about Kamala Harris.

6. Belgian mayor to ask suspension of free rail passes over crowding concerns

The mayor of a Belgian beach town has called for the temporary suspension of a recent free rail pass scheme, saying it drew crowds to the beach at a time when all local businesses were under lockdown.

Mild and sunny autumn weather at the weekend drew people outdoors, with many flocking to the seaside or heading for a stroll in the woods.

Ostend Mayor Bart Tommelein said the influx of crowds was in part due to a free rail pass offered for free to all Belgian residents in a bid to promote local tourism amid the first lockdown. Read more.

7. 555 bicycle thefts in Brussels in first six months of 2020

Police in Brussels registered 555 reports of stolen bicycles in the first half of this year, according to figures obtained by Bianca Debaets (CD&V), a member of the Brussels parliament.

The figures cover only the police zone Brussels City-Ixelles, and show that the majority of thefts take place in the centre of the city.

“The statistics show that most thefts take place in the area of the Place des Martyres, the city centre and the Toison d’Or area,” she said. Read more.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times