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3 Mar 2020 11:35 AM | Tim Reynolds

The Belgian Federal Public Service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment has established a website on the #COVID19 virus that is available in English as well as Flemish, French and German.

Contact us if you want the BBCA to post a News Story or an Event that is strongly linked to the British Community in Brussels.  We reserve the right to select items for publication and to edit items as required for style and space.

Email    BBCA.NewsAndEvents@gmail.com

News and Events -----------

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  • 31 Jul 2020 10:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The UK government has launched a public information campaign across Europe to help UK nationals prepare for the end of the UK's transition period on December 31.

    British nationals residing in Belgium will receive information on the specific measures they must take to maintain their rights but also to access services in Belgium, in particular regarding residence, healthcare, driving licenses and passports.

    The campaign will use multiple channels - including Facebook, digital media and newspaper advertising - urging those affected to take the necessary steps to protect their rights so that they can continue to live, work and travel in Europe after the transition period.

    In addition to this major information campaign, the British Embassy in Belgium is already working with several community groups, including the BBCA, but also directly with British nationals to inform and reassure them.

    This includes providing information and support through public briefings and question-and-answer sessions attended by ambassadors and consular experts.

    British Ambassador to Belgium Martin Shearman said:

    “Protecting the rights of UK nationals is a top priority for us. This is why we have counselled and reassured UK nationals, to make sure they have all the information they need and that they have the certainty of their rights.

    “Brits in Belgium should consult our 'Living in Belgium' guides where they can learn the steps to follow and get important information on residency, healthcare, passports and driving licenses in Belgium. "

    The UK government also announced last year up to £ 3 million in grants for charities and other voluntary organizations to provide practical support to help vulnerable UK nationals who may find it difficult to complete applications for residence or registration - for example, people with mobility difficulties, disabled people or even the elderly. These groups may need additional assistance in completing the paperwork for the end of the transition period.

    This additional assistance will build on the support that British Embassies have already provided since November 2017 with more than 775 events with British nationals.

    The next event in Belgium is a Facebook Q&A session on Wednesday 5 August from 17h00 – see details below.

  • 27 Jul 2020 4:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Following a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has today (27 July) confirmed that from 29 July, for at least four weeks, the ‘social bubble’ in Belgium will be reduced from 15 to five people. This five-person limit is per household - not per person. And the bubble must be the same five people for the whole four-week period.

    For private events, such as family get-togethers and weddings, the limit is now 10 people. For organised events, the maximum audience has been halved with the limit at 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors with the wearing of face masks compulsory.

    In addition, and for the same period, you must shop alone again, unless accompanying children or with a person in need. The maximum time allowed in any shop returns to 30 minutes. And, where possible, working from home is strongly encouraged.

    Your contact details should also be collected if you visit a sports clubs, the hairdressers, beauty salons etc. The full list of applicable venues will be published shortly.

    Finally to avoid crowding in parts of the country, the offer to grant free train travel to citizens will be postponed until September.

    This tightening of coronavirus measures follows a recent 71% surge in new infections in Belgium. PM Wilmès said the new restrictions were "very strong", but the alternative would be a renewal of the full lockdown.

    Local authorities are also urged to introduce more stringent local measures to combat virus 'hotspots. This is currently the case in the province of Antwerp where the local authorities have imposed a curfew from 23h30 to 6h00, teleworking is now mandatory, limitations to sporting activities apply, and restaurant and bars’ closing time has been brought forward. Even stricter rules apply within the city of Antwerp and its immediate surrounding municipalities where all events are prohibited and sport clubs are closed. People from outside the province are asked not to come to Antwerp.

    You can find the press release (in French) with full details here.

    Sciensano statistics updates. The latest update to the COVID-19 epidemiological situation in Belgium (in English) can be found here.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

    The Bulletin's COVID-19 webpage (updated daily)

  • 24 Jul 2020 2:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As part of measures to contain COVID-19 and be able to tack and trace potential infection you may need to fill in a new form before or upon arrival back in Belgium from your holidays. All passengers aged 16 or older must fill in the form.

    The 'Belgium_PassengerLocatorForm' must be completed by all passengers arriving in Belgium following a stay outside the Schengen Area, or, in a high-risk area as defined by the Belgian authorities and located inside the EU+ area. The UK is within the 'EU+' area.

    Details of the current list of high risk/ red areas both for travel to and from Belgium within the EU+ area can be found here. In the UK only Leicester is a defined high risk area at the time of writing, but other parts of the UK are deemed 'orange' at the moment (Midlands, North East & Yorkshire, North West and Northern Ireland).

    COVID testing and a 14 day quarantine are obligatory if returning from a 'red' zone and recommended if travelling from an orange zone.

    Bon voyage!

  • 23 Jul 2020 2:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Today, Thursday 23 July, the Belgian National Security Council has agreed to postpone Phase 5 of COVID-19 deconfinement due to a deterioration in the general trends with respect to the virus in Belgium.

    "From the start, we have been told that the phases would correlate with the figures for the pandemic," warned Sophie Wilmès at a press conference following the Council meeting. She also outlined some additional measures that will be put in place across the country.

    There will be no increase in the maximum number of people allowed for receptions and fairs and exhibitions may not always allowed.

    The resumption of ‘normal’ activities is still scheduled for September 1, but will be subject to a very strict health protocol and the compulsory wearing of face masks.

    Face masks – new rules

    From this Saturday, July 25, the wearing of face masks will be mandatory in all markets, flea markets, fairgrounds, in shopping streets and any place with large amounts of people, whether a private or public domain.

    Each commune will define precisely the areas where facemask will be mandatory.

    Wearing a facemask will also be compulsory in public buildings and in catering establishments, except when diners are seated at the table.

    In all other cases, wearing a mask is always strongly recommended, especially when there are people and when it is difficult to respect safe distancing.

    The closing time for night shops will now be 22h00 to avoid gatherings in public areas.

    Local lockdown

    Reconfinement at the local level will now be the responsibility of mayors at commune level. They can intervene within the framework of the decisions of the National Security Council, but they have the flexibility to act locally if there is a deterioration in the health situation in their commune.

    In some cases, local containment may be possible. The mayors will have to contact the district governors and the regional authorities so that the measures are applied in a consistent manner.

    Where did you eat?

    Everyone visiting a bar or restaurant must complete a form indicating their email address or telephone number, which will be used to contact them in the event of potential contamination.

    “After 15 days, without contamination, this information will be destroyed. And it will not be used for purposes other than those related to the coronavirus," stated the Prime Minister.

    Social bubble

    Each person’s social bubble remains at 15 people per week – not per day. "If everyone strictly respects the rule, we should not touch this bubble to which we hold so much," said Sophie Wilmès. However, to maintain this situation "will depend on the behaviour of each and every one of us."

    Medical situation

    The reason for these new measures stems from a 89% increase in COVID19 cases compared to last week. The number of Covid-19 infections has been accelerating for several days. Between 12 July and 18 July 18, there were an average of 184.3 new cases detected per day. Hospital admissions are also on an upward trend.

    You can watch the 23 July press conference below or read the press release (in French) here.

  • 8 Jul 2020 2:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Belgian Foreign ministry has issued a list of 'orange' countries, including the UK, for which a period of 14 days quarantine and taking a coronavirus test is recommended following a visit. The current orange list covers Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

    Travel to the orange zones is strongly discouraged, but not banned. Travellers returning from one of the listed countries are strongly advised to take a coronavirus test, a second test after nine days, and self-isolate for 14 days.

    The foreign ministry may also apply a 'red' zone label to specific cities, districts or regions within a country if a severe COVID-19 outbreak occurs. Four whole countries are currently classified 'red': Ireland, Finland, Malta and Norway.

    Travel to these red zones from Belgium is forbidden. If you return to Belgium from a red zone, you will have to take two coronavirus tests - on arrival and nine days later - and self-isolate for 14 days.

    Update. In Flanders, fines of up to EUR 4 000 euros and even a prison sentence of up to six months may be applied if people do not comply with the new travel rules. This is the competency of the regions and might vary in other parts of the country.

    In other travel news, SNCB will be launching an app in September that will show passengers how busy a train is before they board. And police have warned that, from this week, anyone caught not wearing a mask on SNCB trains and in stations will be fined €250 rather than a verbal caution. Federal police intend to reinforce spot checks between now and September on platforms and in trains.

  • 29 Jun 2020 9:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    From the weekend the long awaited DeLijn 'TramBus' service - Line 820 - has launched. The service runs from UZ Brussel hospital in Jette to Zaventem airport via Heysel, Koningslo, Vilvoorde town centre, Machelen and Diegem.

    The 24-metre-long vehicles uses hybrid fuel cell technology, can carry up to 137 passengers and can use tram lines while having the flexibility of a bus elsewhere. More information here.

    Exchange your mag stripe tickets

    It is possible to exchange your valid/ unused magnetic cards for SMS or electronic card tickets either online (from 1 July) or a DeLijn shop or point of sale.

  • 26 Jun 2020 5:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    During 2020, BBCA member the British & Commonwealth Women's Club (BCWCB), is supporting two fantastic charities:

    • Parkinson’s Association Belgium who help patients and their families in all aspects of this illness.
    • Giraffe Children’s Charity that provides education, from primary through to college or university, for very deprived children in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya helping them to become productive citizens. 

    Would you like to help raise funds for these charities? This year the BCWCB is organising sponsored walks along “La Promenade Verte” – the Green Walk – encircling Brussels in seven stages and spaced out over several weeks in July and early September. For more information contact the BCWCB Chairperson.

    You can find more information on the full walk here including detailed descriptions of the route. A complete book with maps is also available free of charge on request from Brussels Environnement.

    If you would like to support these charities, you can sponsor the walkers by simply making a donation to the dedicated BCWCB Club account. Thank you! We will publish the results of the fundraising later this year.

    Payment by bank transfer to: IBAN: BE04 2100 1552 7631 BIC: GEBABEBB – Mention: CHARITY WALK DONATION (very important to mention this).

  • 24 Jun 2020 6:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On 24 June 2020 the Belgian National Security Council has agreed to move into phase 4 of the deconfinement from 1 July on the basis of the agreement of the COVID-19 expert group and the continuing good evolution of the epidemiological situation.

    A translation of the press release from the Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmès is reproduced below.

    The six golden rules remain in effect, namely:

    • Respect for hygiene rules.
    • Favouring outdoor activities.
    • Taking extra precautions for those at risk.
    • Respect for safety distances.
    • The extended bubble rule which increases from 10 to 15 different people per week in addition to the home. As a reminder, this right is individual.
    • Group activities cannot exceed 15 people, children included. This applies to all unsupervised meetings, regardless of whether they take place at home or outside the home.

    It will now be possible to open under certain conditions:

    • Swimming pools and wellness centres.
    • Amusement parks and indoor playgrounds.
    • Theatres and cinemas.
    • Casinos and game rooms.
    • Congress halls.
    • Reception and party rooms with a maximum of 50 people.

    Among the conditions is the application of protocols. In addition, the general rules which are already in force for other activities will apply such as the compulsory respect of safety distances, the establishment of time slots and crowd management, the cleaning of infrastructure and the wearing of face masks, which remains highly recommended.

    Other activities cannot restart at this stage:

    • Nightlife activities such as nightclubs.
    • Mass events.

    However, it will be possible to organise activities from 1 July in the presence of an audience, under certain conditions which are set out in protocols.

    For regular events organized in permanent structures such as theatres, cinemas, galleries, congress halls, protocols will therefore be drawn up with the competent ministers and members of the expert group.

    For one-off events in a public space, an online tool will be available on 1 July and will serve as a reference for local authorities in granting permits for these events. Specific rules will also have to be applied.

    For all these events, there is a capacity limit set at:

    • 200 people indoors.
    • 400 people outside.

    This capacity limit will be reassessed in August to 400 people indoors and 800 outdoors maximum, if the health situation allows. An exception may be requested for permanent infrastructure with a seated public that exceeds this limit, but is able to respect health rules.

    The maximum number of outdoor participants will also apply to events. These must always be subject to an authorisation request from the local authorities. In any case, they must always be static and take place in a place where the safety distances can be respected.

    In parallel, in addition to the resumption of these activities, certain protocols will be relaxed from July 1:

    The possibility to go to the store with people from your contact bubble and without time limit. The safety distance always applies.

    Removal of the limit on the number of stalls for markets, but health protocols and regulations should continue to apply.

    Regarding the approaching National Day, the traditional military and civil parade will now take another form to comply with health regulations. Different artistic performances in symbolic places will highlight the country and its artists and will be broadcast on television. A detailed communication on the event(s) will be made later.

    About the longer-term perspectives, the start of the school year is already in full preparation. The education ministers, in collaboration with the expert group, have put in place a colour-coded system that indicates how schools should organise themselves depending on the health situation. Education ministers will explain the plan in more detail at a press conference.

    The full press release (in French) can be found here.

  • 22 Jun 2020 1:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It is confirmed. All Belgian residents aged 12 and over will be entitled to a free 12-journey SNCB rail pass.

    The "National Tour" pass entitles the named user to 12 free second-class journeys that can be claimed at a rate of two per month, from August to January (a return trip counts as two journeys). But the pass cannot be used during weekends in August and will not be accepted on trains before 9.00 on weekdays. Online registration for the pass should be available by the beginning of August and the passes themselves by the middle of the month.

    New coronavirus stats for Belgium are no longer being published daily. Sciensano will now only release figures from Tuesday to Saturday with the Tuesday update including data for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

    A second school in Schaerbeek has temporarily closed after two children tested positive for coronavirus. The Dutch-speaking municipal school plans to reopen on Wednesday. Pupils in the affected classes will not return to school until September. Last week, a nearby French-speaking school was temporarily closed.

    About one in 10 workers in Belgium continue to telework.

    Seven out of 10 people in Belgium are prepared to comply with a second stay-at-home order, if necessary, according to survey. Only 19% of respondents opposed the idea.

    Sciensano statistics update of 20 June (Saturday). 74 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 18 (14%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 60 550 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 6 256 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, 20 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 42 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 19 June, a total of 17 620 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 16 771 people have left. Currently 50 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units in Belgian hospitals.

    Only 2 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which none were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 696 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 475 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Read the daily report (in French) here.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

    The Bulletin's COVID-19 webpage (updated daily)

  • 11 Jun 2020 10:03 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The third UNICEF Lockdown Quiz has been announced! The two previous 'Lockdown’ quizzes have already raised over EUR 4000 for the international development charity's activities.

    The third UNICEF ‘Lockdown’ Anagram Quiz has been tweaked to tone down the questions and, hopefully, raise the number of high scoring entries, and avoid too much brain ache for participants.

    This time all the answers are the surnames of well-known world political leaders from the 20th and 21st centuries. As before, the number of letters corresponding to each clue are in parentheses and the number in bold represents the total number of letters in the leader’s name.

    Answers must be received no later than midnight (CEST) on Friday 19 June and the winners will be announced on the evening of Saturday 20 June once the tie-break answer is known.

    For the tie-break question this month, a sporting question has been selected: specifically a horse racing question. For the tie-break you must estimate the winning time for the Queen Alexandra Stakes that is running at 16.40pm (BST) on the 20th at Royal Ascot. Don’t worry if you know nothing about horse racing, all you need to do is estimate the winning time and, FYI, over the last 20 years this has been between 4 minutes and 45.2seconds and 5 minutes and 4.1sec. A spreadsheet with all winning times in this period can be accessed here.

    The winner and ‘Political Leaders Anagram Quiz Champion’ will be the person who has the highest quiz score and whose tie-break answer (if applicable) is closest to the actual winning time.

    The winner will receive three bottles of Petit Pas Saint Emilion Grand Cru. There will also be a prize of a bottle of champagne for the person who does not achieve the highest quiz score but whose tie-break answer is closest to the actual winning time.

    To participate download the quiz sheet here and please email your answers to unicefquiz@gmail.com to arrive no later than midnight CEST on Friday 19 June.

    The suggested entry fee is between EUR 5 and 10 to be paid directly to the Ex-Pats for UNICEF account: BE83 3630 2680 8315.

    Even if you choose not to participate in the quiz, you may wish to make a donation which would be much appreciated.

    As before, money raised by UNICEF in Belgium this year will go to support the WASH (WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene) project in Rwanda.

    Please feel free to distribute widely to your quiz teammates, friends and colleagues

    With many thanks for your continued support in these difficult times.

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