Coronavirus in Belgium: The latest developments
What’s the latest?
Millions of cloth facemasks ordered by the federal government are still sitting in pharmacies, waiting to be picked up free of charge. About 3.5 million of the 15 million masks delivered have been picked up. One member of a family can collect masks for the whole household. Just bring your ID card.
Wearing a mask has been made compulsory in all Belgian shops, cinemas, museums and libraries, since 11 July. Theatres, concert halls, conference venues and places of worship are also included in the new rules, which apply to anyone aged 12 and over. More details here…
A Delhaize spokesman said it was “not our employees’ job to enforce the measure. Our staff are already under pressure, we don’t want to put extra pressure on them by asking them to play police.” He added: “We have five million customer visits every week, so it’s very difficult to check everyone. We are not going to deny access, but we will call the police. As an employer, we have a responsibility towards our personnel.”
Colruyt and Aldi will supply a free disposible mask to customers who forget in the first week. Several local police zones approached by RTBF have said they will prioritise dialogue – and an informal caution – before imposing any fines for failing to wear a mask in a shop. The possible fine is €250 for individuals and €750 for stores that repeatedly ignore the rules.
With many big events cancelled, the City of Brussels is renting out unused tables and chairs to the city’s restaurants and cafes. The initiative aims to help eateries wishing to expand their terrace, without having to make a big purchase. The surplus equipment will be available until the end of September, and cafes will only have to pay the bill at the end of the season, once they have handed it back. See www.rockthecity.be
New data from Sciensano shows that, of the 8,343 care home residents who tested positive for coronavirus between 8 April and 18 May, about three quarters of them showed no symptoms. ULB expert Yves Coppieters says widespread coronavirus testing in retirement homes must continue, in order to detect cases early.
Liège university hospital has reopened its drive-in coronavirus testing facility. It is capable of carrying out 250 tests a day, and on average 2% of the tests are coming back positive.
Malta has confirmed it will allow travel from Belgium from 15 July. Finland allowed Belgian travellers to enter the country from this Monday. Read our updated travel advice guide here…
Explaining the latest measure, prime minister Sophie Wilmès said: “We see that the numbers are stagnating at the moment, but what mattered most to us was to have a clear and unanimous opinion from the experts. We always base our decisions on expert opinions. We hope one day to have neither to restrict our freedoms, nor to have to wear a mask: that is the medium-term objective. If the epidemic were to resume, we could take additional measures, whether in terms of wearing a mask, closing things, restricting freedoms. It’s not fun but it may be a day required.”
Police in Knokke-Heist made five administrative arrests on Thursday night, after hundreds of people gathered on the streets after the bars closed. The local police chief is in favour of extending the closing time from 1.00 to 3.00 in the morning to better spread out the flow of people and avoid masses of people leaving bars at the same time.
Belgium’s national security council will meet again on Wednesday (15 July). The meeting will, among other topics, discuss the current restrictions on trade fairs, after the industry sector successfully complained to the Council of State, forcing the Belgian state to make a decision no later than 15 July.
King Philippe on Thursday visited Liège Airport, which has positioned itself as a European hub for the supply of protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. More than a billion masks have passed through the airport since the outbreak began, plus gloves, protective gowns, respirators and test kits destined for numerous European countries, and coming mostly from China. In addition, Liège is also a hub for the UN’s World Food Programme, sending medical and humanitarian material to African nations.
Hunger will kill more people than coronavirus this year, Oxfam has warned. The NGO has identified 10 “extreme famine” hotspots around the world, where the situation is worsening because of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is “undermining an already faltering global food system, exposing millions more to starvation”. It pointed to mass unemployment, disruptions to the food supply chain and declining funding for humanitarian aid.
Police broke up an illegal rave party in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, just outside Brussels, on Friday night. It is reported that 150 partygoers were present, who fled as soon as they saw police arrive. A local police spokesperson said the organisers had been identified and faced prosecution. The generator supplying power to the sound system was seized.
A citizens’ initiative called Coronadenktank is looking for nominations for “corona heroes” who have gone out of their way to help others during the crisis. Four of them will be invited to a special event with King Philippe at the royal palace in September. Nominate someone before 18 July at www.pleindespoir.be