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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 -----------

  • 9 Apr 2020 1:08 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Thursday 9 April 2020.

    Sciensano COVID-19 update of 9 April. 1,580 new confirmed cases have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 149 (9%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 24,983 confirmed cases have been reported with 2,664 (11%) in Brussels. 459 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalized in the past 24 hours and 483 people discharged. Between 15 March and 8 April 9,894 patients with COVID-19 were admitted to hospital and 5,164 people were discharged. 283 new deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours. At the close of this report, a total of 2,523 deaths have been notified of which 410 (16.2%) were in Brussels. Full report here.

    The National Security Council will meet next week to decide whether containment measures will be extended until May 3.

    Belgian WHO Europe Director Kluge described the situation in Europe as 'very worrying' and emphasised that the positive developments in some countries do not mean that the virus has been defeated. "It would be dangerous to think we are approaching the end," said Kluge.

    Interior Minister Pieter De Crem says police may in some cases enter a home to stop a lockdown party.

    Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders have asked for help from the army in residential care centres. Since Tuesday, Belgian army medical personnel have been present in a residential care centres in Jette.

    The intensive care units in the Belgian hospitals still have enough beds, but are not yet ready for a new influx of corona patients should containment measures be weakened.

    Hydroxychloroquine is already being given to some patients. It has been shown in the laboratory that it has an anti-inflammatory action and that it reduces the production of viruses. “We have done this empirically in crisis times, counting on the fact that even if there is no benefit for the patient, that person’s viral load was going to decrease, which also helped to protect the nursing staff," Erasme Hospital doctor Jean-Christophe Goffard said.

    Municipality of Saint-Josse plans to distribute reusable masks to residents.

    Disinfectant gel production capacity has increased by one million litres with the help of the Belgian chemical, pharmaceutical and food companies.

    The Brussels regional government has decided to grant a single bonus of EUR 4000 for establishments forced to close. Other measures are under consideration.

    The European Commission wants to keep the external borders of the European Union closed for longer to curb the spread of the corona virus. It proposes to extend the ban on non-essential travel to the EU until May 15.

    Prisoners in Belgium have already produced 27,350 masks since the outbreak of the new coronavirus. 17,500 of these masks were intended for the penitentiary institutions themselves. In addition, 6,500 masks were handed over to care organisation Child and Family, 1,000 to the Immigration Office, 3,500 to the courts, 2,000 to the FPS Finance and the European Parliament also placed an order.

    In the frozen food department in supermarkets, fries, croquettes and duchess potatoes are wildly successful. Sales of fresh potatoes also increased dramatically during containment. It is therefore undeniable: the potato remains staple food for the Belgian consumer.

    The interchange between the E40 and the R0 from Louvain to Woluwe-Saint-Etienne on the Brussels ring will be closed on weekdays between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. for three weeks from April 13.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 8 Apr 2020 12:14 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Wednesday 8 April 2020.

    On Wednesday 8 April, Belgium had 23,403 known cases of coronavirus - an increase of 1,209 in the past day (548 in Wallonia, 544 in Flanders, 101 in Brussels and 16 unknown). There are 5,688 people currently in hospital - a decrease of more than 300 in the past day. Among those in hospital, 1,276 are in intensive care. Over the past 24 hours, 487 patients have been admitted to hospital and 524 discharged. Since the outbreak began, 2,240 people have died - an increase of 205 in the past day. Some 4,681 people have made a full recovery from coronavirus since the outbreak began.

    The number of reported deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium may make some significant leaps in the coming days. In its daily report on Tuesday, Sciensano, the federal research centre, points out that 'a significant number of deaths in residential care centres in Flanders' before 1 April were not included in the data. These are now being added systematically from 6 April. Deaths in residential care centres in Brussels and Wallonia are already recorded in the data.

    “If the [current] trend continues for the rest of the week, we will be over the peak,” virologist Marc Van Ranst is cautiously positive about the most recent figures. The number of hospital admissions has been falling for several days. Van Ranst does not want to confirm this with certainty, although he is hopeful.

    Inhabitants of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert are being encouraged to wear masks on the street.

    1.25 million people are currently in the system of temporary unemployment in Belgium. That is a record number – amounting to almost one-third of the total number of active workers and employees.

    Supermarkets Lidl and Colruyt reach agreement on corona compensations, Lidl staff receives additional holidays, Colruyt’s extra leave, premiums and compensation in the form of meal vouchers.

    Limburg postpones provincial taxes for families and companies.

    Given the reduced car traffic on the Brussels roads following the containment measures, Bruxelles Mobilité is making adaptations to the traffic lights, in order to allow cyclists and pedestrians to wait less at certain crossroads.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 7 Apr 2020 11:07 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Tuesday 7 April 2020.

    A proposed strike at Bruxelles Propreté is not expected to have significant impact on regular household waste collections. However, there will be no collections of yellow or blue recycling bags this week - you should keep them in your home if possible. If this isn't possible, they can be collected at the same time as regular household waste (white bags). The blue and yellow rounds have been cancelled to ensure available staff can focus on white, green and orange bags (household, garden and food waste).

    Last week Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced the creation of a new expert group to deal with the gradual relaxation of COVID-19 measures. The group will consist of ten experts, including Marc van Ranst (KU Leuven) and Pierre Wunsh (Governor National Bank). Virologist Erika Vlieghe will chair the group.

    Thanks to the new Flemish 'Help the helpers' platform, healthcare institutions can now search for volunteers in a fast and targeted manner. Both healthcare institutions and volunteers, with and without a medical background, can register directly on the website. 

    A possible drug against COVID-19 might be available and cheap: blood plasma. From 15 April, the Red Cross will collect plasma from cured corona patients, which they will then make available for scientific research. All confirmed male patients with COVID-19 can register through an online tool.

    Banks are increasing the limits for contactless payments soon to EUR 50, reports banking federation Febelfin.

    Brussels Airlines will keep its aircraft on the ground until 15 May.

    Interior Minister Pieter De Crem announced that the National Security Council (CNS) will soon confirm the cancellation of major summer festivals, including Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter. Brussels festivals Couleur Café and the Brussels Summer Festival have no plans to cancel as yet.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 6 Apr 2020 12:00 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Monday 6 April 2020.

    Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has asked Belgian residents to continue their efforts. “Experts agree that the measures we have taken have an impact on the evolution of the spread of the disease.”

    The testing capacity in Belgium can be increased to 10,000 tests per day, reports Minister Philippe De Backer, who heads the testing taskforce.

    Steven Van Gucht, chairman of the Scientific Corona Committee, says it is “encouraging that the number of new recordings is stabilising. There is hope that the number of new admissions will decrease further this week. More than 1,000 beds are available in intensive care, I think we can handle this."

    The University of Liège (ULiège) has developed an automated test for the detection of the new coronavirus. The test means that 2,000 extra tests can be performed daily in Liège. ULiège becomes one of the five detection reference centres, alongside GSK, UCB, Janssen Pharmaceutica and KU Leuven.

    According to Test-Achats, the prices in the supermarkets have risen during the corona crisis. The prices rose especially at Carrefour Hyper (+ 5%) and Colruyt (+ 6.6%).

    On Friday, 3 April, Belgium authorities announced that entry and exit checks have been reintroduced in order to prevent people from taking part in non-essential travel amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Ministry of the Interior has announced that all travellers to Belgium will be expected to carry a Belgium ID card or a letter from their employer to prove that their travel is essential. Individuals attempting to travel for non-essential purposes will be denied entry.

    The Flemish Family Association and its French-language counterpart Ligue des Familles want parents for whom the combination of work and children becomes unsustainable to be able to apply for exceptional leave. 'We ask for a solution in the form of temporary leave for parents of children under 12 or children with special care needs. This leave could take the form of extra, more flexible and better paid parental leave, or a specific benefit from health insurance, such as in France and Luxembourg. "

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 3 Apr 2020 11:38 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Friday 3 April 2020.

    Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has announced that: “a high-level group will be formed to prepare for gradual ‘deconfinement’ with a "gradual" reopening of public life over several months. "We have to start working on a scenario now," she said. "This committee will be chaired by a person from the scientific world, because health will always come first."

    Belgium is making EUR 5 million available for the development of a vaccine against the corona virus, said Minister of Finance and Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo.

    Virologist Steven Van Gucht referred to the high demand for mouth masks: "Our advice remains the same: keep your distance, wash your hands with soap and water. Masks add little to that. They do make sense for people who cannot keep a distance, and I refer to our caregivers.”

    Brussels Iris network hospitals have reached 90% of its capacity for intensive care.

    Brussels Airlines needs a substantial cash injection. The company originally requested EUR 200 million at the start of the corona crisis, but that has been overtaken by events being based on the assumption that the crisis would end in April and that air traffic would resume swiftly. A group of experts tasked with rescuing large Belgian companies as a result of the corona crisis is urgently considering Brussels Airlines. Renationalisation of the airline is also on the table.

    Buses, trains and trams are virtually empty in Belgium: on the railways barely 5% of seats are occupied. The number of travellers on De Lijn has also plummeted with an occupancy rate of about 10%. The Brussels STIB transport company sees slightly more travellers on its buses, trams and metros with an occupancy rate of about 15%.

    Six out of ten French-speaking entrepreneurs have completely ceased their activities following the containment measures, according to the quarterly barometer of the Union of the middle classes (UCM) carried out at the end of March among 3,600 freelancers and SME managers.

    And finally, some lighter news, 60 Belgian artists have (re)covered “We Are the World” in tribute to nursing and medical staff.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 2 Apr 2020 11:25 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Calling all quizzers! As many of you know, UNICEF Belgium holds a regular and highly successful Quiz Evening to raise funds for the charity. However, due to the COVID–19 pandemic, these evenings are suspended and it is not clear when they will be resumed.

    So to help keep us all amused and to raise some funds for UNICEF during this hiatus, quiz supremo Stuart Cummings has compiled a 20-question anagram quiz based on one-word film titles. Some lateral thinking will be necessary!

    How to pay

    To participate in the quiz a minimum EUR 5 entry fee is requested (more would be wonderful) that will be used to support UNICEF activities at this difficult time.

    Entry fee is by bank transfer to either:

    Stuart Cummings, BE18 3100 3358 9065, BIC BBRUBEBB who will collate the entry fees received and make a one-time payment to UNICEF or,

    Direct to UNICEF BE83 3630 2680 8315, BIC BBRUBEBB

    When making a transfer, please include your name (as entered on your answer sheet) and the reference UNICEF QUIZ APRIL

    How to play

    You can down load the Quiz sheet here: 

    UNICEF Anagrams of One-word Film Titles.docx

    The quiz comprises 20 one-word film titles and the number of letters in the answer is indicated in bold. The two subsequent clues need to be solved correctly to give the letters that make up the anagram. The number in parentheses after each clue indicates the number of letters corresponding to the clue.

    On the question and answer sheet, please indicate your name, nickname (optional) and email address to enable tracking and reporting back to all participants.

    Completed entries should be emailed to the following UNICEF address that has been set up specifically for the quiz - UNICEFquiz@gmail.com - to arrive no later than midnight CEST on 19 April. Even if you are unable to answer all of the questions, please submit your entry and make a donation!

    In the event that two or more players are tied on the number of correct anagram answers, the tie-break question will come into play. For the tie-break question you are asked to estimate the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the USA at midnight CEST on 24 April. Data from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) website will be used for the tie-break.

    All answers will be provided and the winner will be announced on 25 April. As well as receiving the accolade of “Film Title Anagram Quiz Champion”, the winner will also receive four bottles of Petit Pas Saint Emilion Grand Cru donated by Stuart!

    We hope you will enjoy the quiz and be generous in donating to the UNICEF cause.

  • 2 Apr 2020 10:38 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Thursday 2 April.

    Nearly 5,000 people are currently hospitalised in Belgium for coronavirus-related care, of whom one-fifth are in intensive care. The number of hospitalised patients is growing less quickly than last week according to Le Soir.

    From 1 April GPs can make free use of "Remote Care", a video consultation service of the Christian “Mutuality”. This will allow doctors to "safely consult and forward certificates".

    To avoid a shortage of drugs, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products has announced that each hospital with intensive care capacity has received a strategic stock of hydroxychloroquine, Kaletra, a drug based on lopinavir and ritonavir, and Rocuronium, a derivative of a type of curare, used as muscle relaxant for people in intensive care.

    More than EUR 4 million has been raised so far for the appeal by CHU Saint-Pierre. A link to the appeal can be found here

    TUI has cancelled all trips up to and including 10 May and the KLM-owned airline Transavia is cancelling all flights from Brussels until March 2021.

    The Police Unions are threatening to strike from April 12 to 19 in a dispute about the lack of provision of face masks and other protective equipment.

    The European Parliament has offered the Brussels regional authorities the use of its building in the Square de Meeûs and some 100 service cars and trucks, with drivers to help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Useful links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 1 Apr 2020 12:14 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    There are four ways to destroy the #coronavirus :

    1. #WashYourHands

    2. Hand sanitiser

    3. Bleach

    4. Hydrogen peroxide

    But how do they work? Here's how.

  • 1 Apr 2020 10:12 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Some recent announcements from the Belgian government(s).

    There will be "No additional hospital fees for patients with coronavirus" says Federal Health minister Maggie De Block.

    The situation in 146 nursing and care homes within the Brussels Region is improving, with a drop in the number of residents hospitalised and the number of deaths due to the new coronavirus, announced the regional Minister of Action Social and Health, Alain Maron.

    Wallonia wants to produce mouth masks before the end of May, the Walloon government has announced. To this end, it has partnered with the international company Deltrian, which has a branch in Fleurus and which specialises in the production of air filters.

    The problem of disinfectant gels has been solved, says Minister Philippe De Backer who is responsible for the supply of equipment intended to fight the coronavirus.

    Brussels mental health professionals have set up a helpline to listen to residents' worries and point them in the direction of further help. The number is 025 01 01 27, or visit this website

    Remember, up to date information on the COVID-19 crisis can be found on the dedicated Federal COVID-19 website.

  • 31 Mar 2020 11:32 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Belgian news snippets for Tuesday 31 March.

    Concern is growing for the agriculture sector. Even though people are allowed to cross the border for work (with the permission of their employer or a vignette), in practice, few seasonal workers are finding their way to the fields. "If nothing changes, we will reap nothing this year." A farmer’s union has called for temporary unemployed people to be employed in the fields.

    Stores specialising in items for babies and toddlers have been added to the list of essential stores.

    The free federal government telephone line 0800 14 689 to answer questions from the public about the coronavirus has already received 150 000 calls. The information line is also available by email at info-coronavirus@health.fgov.be.

    Proximus has extended free calls to fixed lines and unlimited fixed internet.

    Bruxelles Propreté: blue and yellow bags will not be collected for three days.

    The animal rights association Gaia has launched a free number 0800 53 335 to receive calls and questions about the welfare of pets during the COVID19 confinement. 

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