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22 May - COVID-19 News update

22 May 2020 11:57 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

COVID-19 selected news snippets for Friday, 22 May 2020.

The 194 member countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO) adopted a resolution on Tuesday encouraging mechanisms for the "voluntary" sharing of patents and intellectual property rights in the search for a vaccine and treatments against the coronavirus. The United States, however, deplored the terms of the resolution calling for the "urgent removal of unjustified obstacles" to "universal, rapid and equitable access and fair distribution" of treatment and vaccines.

It is not over. WHO reported on Wednesday the largest number of new COVID-19 cases in the world in a single day - 106 000 cases - since the start of the pandemic, saying it feared the consequences in the poorest countries.

The number of infections worldwide reaches five million. Belgium ranks 17th among the countries with the most COVID-19 infections, according to figures by John Hopkins University.

Europe must prepare for a second wave but it won't necessarily be disastrous, says EU coronavirus official Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The question is not whether there will be a new wave of contamination, but "when", said the director.

Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmès said on Wednesday that “the reappraisal of care professions should be a priority.” She says that this does not only involve higher salaries, but also better working conditions. She and her party (MR) are in favour of repealing the two Royal Decrees that infuriated the unions and sparked strikes in the health sector. The two legal texts concern the requisition of personnel and the possibility of nursing activities being carried out by non-nursing staff. 

Microbiologist Herman Goossens from Antwerp University: "Increase in hospital admissions somewhat worrying." It is not yet dramatic, but it is a first warning signal. For the past five days, hospitalisations have started to rise again.

A quarter of the COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care have died. That figure may increase, but is much lower than first reports.

Visits to hospitals will be allowed from 2 June.

On Wednesday Brussels-Capital Region began its first "massive" distribution of 800,000 masks out of the 3.5 million planned to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The mayors of Brussels ask for a clarification of the measures on wearing a mask. In order for each municipality to have the same regulation concerning the wearing of masks in shops or public spaces, mayors decided to write to the Minister of the Interior, Pieter De Crem asking him to make a clearer decision on the matter.

The number of houses sold has fallen by 47 % since the corona crisis. The sector advocates for fiscal support for families who want to invest in real estate.

The Summer sales are officially postponed to August 1.

"There will probably be between 15 and 20 % bankruptcy, and 52,000 job losses in Brussels," estimates Olivier Willockx of Beci.

Six in ten households lost money during the coronavirus crisis. The first factor is salary. More than a third of households (35 %) report experiencing a net loss of wages. This amounts, on average, to EUR 1 571 euros on net household income.

Bozar reopened on Tuesday, the Atomium will reopen on June 1, the communal gardens reopened this Thursday in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode and Pairi Daiza is now also opening doors to non-subscribers.

Home owners of second residences can return to their second home, also on the coast and in the Ardennes. "But the rules do not change," emphasises Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon.

Despite a sunny Ascension weekend, it remains calm for the time being at the coast. In Blankenberge, a handful of Walloon day trippers were sent back, but the feared influx has not happened.

Details will be given at today's Daily UK government briefing but it is likely that anyone traveling to the United Kingdom from the end of the month will be obliged to self-isolate for two weeks. Fines for those that do not.

France wants to reopen its borders this summer and welcome Belgians. French Secretary of State to the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, expressed his hope that the internal borders of the Union will open in mid-June.

Charleroi Airport reopens on June 15 - Wizzair will be the first to take off.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) recommend physical distancing measures "as far as possible" and the wearing of a medical mask for travel in planes. These masks need to be changed every four hours, and passengers need to make sure they have enough, but companies are also encouraged to supply.

From Wednesday, May 20, Belgian post is sending letters and parcels again to five destinations in Asia: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. The service was suspended on 19 March.

The concentrations of pollutant nitric oxide in places where traffic is normally high in Brussels have fallen by 75 % since the start of the crisis.

Fire service warning: 'Do not put alcohol gel in the sun in your car.' Placing it in the sun, especially in a hot car, can cause a fire.

And finally. Just because he is at home, doesn’t mean he will share the housework. Many women initially hoped that confinement would redistribute domestic work more equitably. But the first study results do not point in this direction.

Sciensano statistics update of 22 May. 276 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 30 (11%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 56 511 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 742 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

In the past 24 hours, some 56 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 135 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 21 May, a total of 16 943 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 15 123 people have left.

26 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 4 (15%) were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 212 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 416 (15%) were in Brussels.

Currently 268 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units in Belgian hospitals.

Read the daily report (in French) here.

Useful Links

Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

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