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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 -----------

  • 22 Jan 2021 9:30 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Today, 22 January 2021, the Belgian authorities discussed the coronavirus situation and decided, despite a stabilising health situation in Belgium, to temporarily ban recreational and tourist travel to and from Belgium. The aim of these measures are to prevent or at least limit the importation of the more virulent ‘mutant’ strains of COVID emerging in some parts of the world.

    The announced limitations on international travel are:

    A. Ban on non-essential travel

    Travel for recreational or tourist purposes to and from Belgium is prohibited from Wednesday 27 January to Monday 1 March 2021. This ban will be controlled for road, air, sea and rail traffic.

    Any persons traveling to and from Belgium must be in possession of a declaration of honour relating to the nature of their journey. A model form will be provided by the Minister of the Interior. The declaration of honour must be linked to the passenger's Passenger Location Form and be supported by any necessary documentation.

    During the ban, only essential travel is allowed. The following categories may fall under essential travel:

    A compelling family reason such as Family reunion; Visits to a spouse or partner who does not live under the same roof, as long as plausible evidence of a stable and lasting relationship can be provided; or Travel related to co-parenting, civil and religious weddings, funerals or cremations (of allies or relatives).

    Humanitarian reasons such as Travel for medical reasons and the pursuit of medical treatment; Assistance to an older, minor, disabled or vulnerable person; or Visiting relatives in palliative care.

    For studying such as Travel for pupils, students and interns participating in an exchange as part of their studies; or Researchers with a hosting contract.

    Border workers were Travel related to daily life for activities which are also authorized in Belgium; or Professional reason for carrying out a professional activity

    In addition, Animal care, travel due to legal obligations (if this cannot be accomplished digitally), and urgent vehicle safety repairs are also considered essential.

    B. Travellers from UK, South Africa and South America

    From Monday 25 January, all travellers entering Belgium from the United Kingdom, South Africa or South America will be required to respect a ten-day quarantine and carry out a PCR test on the first and the seventh day of their quarantine.

    C. Double entry test

    The authorities would also like all non-residents traveling to Belgium to be tested again on arrival in Belgium, in addition to the mandatory negative test prior to their departure to the country. This could be a PCR test or a rapid antigen test.

    Anybody who tests positive for COVID-19 will now have to self-isolate for ten days.

    After high-risk contact or travel to Belgium, the quarantine period remains at ten days. This period may be reduced to a minimum of seven days on condition of presenting a negative test that has been carried out no earlier than seven days after exposure to COVID.

    Prospects for getting your hair cut

    Due to the current state of the epidemic, it is not yet recommended to reopen the non-medical contact professions, such as beauty salons, non-medical pedicure stores, nail salons, massage parlours, hairdressers, barbers, and tattoo salons, however reopening from 13 February may be considered provided that the epidemiological situation continues to develop positively. The situation will be reassessed on 5 February.

    In addition, the reopening of non-medical contact professions will only be possible in strict compliance with existing protocols, supplemented by a series of additional measures, such as the obligation to open by appointment only, the compulsory registration of appointments, the obligation for customers to wait outside and the obligation to leave doors and windows open at all times.

    The press release following the Concertation Committee (in French) can be found here

  • 22 Jan 2021 3:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine has been administered to the first member of the Wednesday Club

    On Wednesday 20 January, Muguette aged 92 received her first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.  This was done at her residential home in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert.   Her second dose will be administered on 3 February.

    I visited Muguette the day after her vaccination and she was delighted.  I know some people might be a little bit nervous, but Muguette reassured me that it was very easy and painless.   Wonderful news!

    Ron Aston, who heads the Wednesday Club said: "We've not been able to hold our normal meetings since the virus arrived.  Losing social contact has a big impact on our members, so this is great news.  It's a major step towards us returning back to normal".

    Best wishes to all.  Chris Dalton x

  • 22 Jan 2021 1:08 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    BBCA has been contacted by the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), a London based think-tank, that is looking at how the UK Government engages (or not) with British citizens living in Brussels. It is also asking Brits in Washington DC. If you would like to contribute your perspective, a link to their survey can be found below.

    The FPC project emerged from discussions with long-standing Brussels based colleagues who talked about their limited interaction with UK government representatives in Brussels and parallel conversations with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) about its approach to soft-power and building on different networks.

    The survey

    The survey is part of FPC’s project entitled Understanding the British Diaspora that aims to help broaden understanding of the British Diaspora in both Washington DC and Brussels, especially on how they interact with the UK Government. The survey seeks to capture a snapshot of respondents’ views about their current engagement with UK Government institutions, what they might want from the Government, and what their issues or concerns might be.

    All responses to the survey will be collected anonymously using the Alchemer (formerly SurveyGizmo) secure survey platform and comprises two sections: Background information and your Engagement with the UK Government or British institutions

    The majority of questions are tick box based, with some space to add detail if needed. In addition, there is space at the end of the survey to add extra information and views if you wish.

    The survey should take only 5-10 mins to complete. You can access the survey here.

    Please feel free to share the link to the survey to other Brits in Brussels.

    Who are FPC

    The Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) is a non-partisan international affairs think tank based in the UK. Their mission is to provide an open and accessible space for the ideas, knowledge and experience of experts, academics and activists from across the world, so that their voices can be heard by a global audience of citizens and decision makers in order to find solutions to today’s international challenges.

    A recent policy publication of note is ‘Partnerships for the future of UK Foreign Policy’ that sets out the many different ways in which a ‘Global Britain’ can reinvigorate its relationships with allies, alliances and institutions.

  • 22 Jan 2021 11:59 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    This month will see the launch of a new British Embassy Brussels, Citizen’s Rights Newsletter that is targeting UK nationals who were living/ resident in Belgium before 1 January 2021. The newsletter will be emailed once per month during 2021, reflecting the application window for the new residency system (M and N cards) for UK citizens covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Belgium.

    The Embassy will be distributing the newsletter by email (see how to sign up below) with the aim of reaching a broader range of UK nationals such as those who are not regular users of social media. The Embassy is also encouraging all recipients of the newsletter to forward it (including by printing and posting) to any family, friends or colleagues who they think may not have received information previously.

    Please share the registration link below with anyone in your circle, groups or organisations that you think may be interested or could benefit.

    How to sign up

    Subscribing to the email newsletter is easy. Just click on the link below to send a blank email to the Embassy Newsletter email account. You will then receive an acknowledgement email and the newsletter will be sent to your email account when published.

    To sign up to the newsletter, please send a blank email by clicking on this link.

    The Embassy’s subscription email is purely for the distribution of the newsletter and is not monitored for any other reason.

    If you have a query relating to EU Exit or your rights as a UK national in Belgium, please check the Embassy’s Living in Belgium guide or send them a query via our web form. The Embassy also hosts public Q&A sessions on their our Facebook page on the first Wednesday of each month.  

    The BBCA also hopes to host further editions of its (post) Brexit Briefings with the Embassy and others during 2021.

  • 14 Jan 2021 3:14 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    In December 2020, The Bulletin launched its own online radio station. This English-language pop-up service – a lively mix of music, interviews, local and international news - targets Belgium’s international community.

    With the Covid-19 pandemic affecting every aspect of our lives, the need to stay informed and feel connected has never been so important. As part of The Bulletin’s ongoing mission to interact with its audience, the Bulletin is inviting community groups across the country to share their stories and activities on the new radio station.

    Three ways to get involved

    1. Share any news about your group, details of upcoming events, initiatives and appeals – anything you think that The Bulletin’s diverse community of readers and listeners should know about!
    2. Put forward a representative from your group to record an interview with the radio station about your work. This would air on The Bulletin radio and also be published as a written article on thebulletin.be.
    3. If your group has a mailing list or newsletter, spread the word to your members about The Bulletin radio.

    Three ways to tune in

    And here are three ways to listen to The Bulletin radio:

    1. Via the online player on every page of thebulletin.be – or follow this direct  link
    2. On your Amazon smart speaker. Just ask: “Alexa, enable Bulletin radio”.
    3. By downloading the free “Simple Radio” app for iOS and Android devices.
  • 14 Jan 2021 2:49 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    From 4am (UK time) on Monday 18 January 2021 all travellers to England will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID test. Travellers unable to present proof of a negative test result may not be able to board their chosen mode of transport and could be fined £500 on arrival into England.

    The obligation applies to all traveller, including UK citizens, from all destination countries including those on the UK's travel corridors list. The COVID test must have been taken with the three days before the start of the journey to England.

    More details here, including which tests are accepted by the UK authorities.

    Different rules apply for travellers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • 9 Jan 2021 5:12 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    A meeting of the Belgian authorities on Friday 8 January discussed the current epidemiological situation that has been moving in a positive direction for several weeks in the country. The meeting noted that the number of infections is slowly decreasing. However, despite this general downward trend, the reproduction rate is again slightly increasing (Rt = 1.004) and the occupancy of intensive care beds also remains at a high level. In addition, it is still too early to assess the possible negative impact of residents returning from other countries, the end-of-year celebrations and the reopening of schools.

    In this context the authorities made the following decisions:

    • Mandatory teleworking will continue and there will be more controls at the workplaces of workers who must respect a quarantine.
    • Non-essential travel is still strongly discouraged. There will be more checks on compliance with the testing and quarantine requirements after non-essential travel. Controls will also be stepped up when travellers return to the roads. The current travel rules will remain applicable at least until after the Carnival holidays in mid-February.
    • The vaccination programme is accelerating. The task force in charge of vaccination will be asked to speed up the vaccination rate and make the process more efficient.
    • There will be more tests. Health ministers and the Testing task force are tasked with increasing the number of PCR tests and antigen tests as part of the current testing capacity.
    • Vigilance in schools. The authorities believe there will be a need to be more attentive to health and quarantine measures among children of school age, in particular children who are attending school in neighbouring countries who are experiencing a less favourable epidemiological situation currently.

    More information (in French) here.

  • 5 Jan 2021 9:11 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Today (Tuesday 5 January) marks the official start of Belgium's coronavirus vaccination campaign. A pilot campaign was carried out between Christmas and the New Year to test logistics, in which 700 people were successfully vaccinated.

    In the first phase of the campaign, vaccinations will be given to around 200 000 residents and staff in care homes. The vaccine to be used will be the Belgium-manufactured Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine authorised for use across the EU just before Christmas (link to EU authorisation site). Some 87 000 doses are due to be delivered per week and each recipient of the vaccine will get two doses, 21 days apart, as specified by the manufacturer and the regulatory authorities. The first phase will continue into mid-February.

    Belgium plans to issue a certificate to everyone who is vaccinated against coronavirus that can be downloaded from the official website MaSante.belgique.be

    Testing update

    The Red Cross has opened a coronavirus testing centre at Brussels-Midi station, for rail passengers returning from a red zone. It is capable of carrying out 750 tests per day.

    Brussels' seven other coronavirus test centres are now keeping the same opening hours at weekends as during the week, to handle increased demand from returning travellers. The centres can be found on Boulevard Pachéco (centre), Albert (Forest), Mérode (Etterbeek), Heysel (Laeken), Molenbeek, Schaerbeek and Anderlecht, with a total weekly testing capacity of 70 000. To book a test go to: https://brussels.testcovid.be/.

    The Belgian government will be financing increased genomic analysis of Covid-19 samples to better understand the prevalence of the various strains of the virus in the country. From mid-January a couple of dozen Belgian laboratories will work on sequencing the Sars-Cov-2 genome working on analysis of some 1 000 positive samples - a quadrupling of the number analysed to approximately 2% of all samples.

    An analysis of samples from blood donors by the Red Cross and Sciensano suggests that 14.4% of the Belgian population currently possess antibodies against coronavirus.

  • 3 Jan 2021 1:50 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Our eighth Christmas 2020 walks contribution comes from Lynne and Jake from the English Youth Theatre in Brussels. 

    If you want to make a contribution to this series just send us a short video of a favourite festive walk, a few photos of a memorable meander or your musings on what 2021 holds for Brits in Belgium. All contributions gratefully received via the BBCA.NewsAndEvents@gmail.com email address.

    All the best for 2021 from all at BBCA and lets hope we all have a "Happy New Year"!

  • 1 Jan 2021 7:41 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Our seventh 2020 Christmas walk video - and first of 2021 - comes from BBCA committee secretary and Chair of the Royal Brussels Cricket Club (RBCC) Nick Compton.

    If you want to make a contribution to this series just send us a short video of a favourite festive walk, a few photos of a memorable meander or your musings on what 2021 holds for Brits in Belgium. All contributions gratefully received via the BBCA.NewsAndEvents@gmail.com email address.

    All the best for 2021 from all at BBCA and lets hope we all have a "Happy New Year"!

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