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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 -----------

  • 7 May 2020 12:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Thursday, 7 May 2020.

    Sciensano update of 7 May. 639 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 101 (16%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 51 420 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 287 (10%) cases located in Brussels.


    In the past 24 hours, 98 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 244 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 6 May, a total of 15 953 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 12 980 people have left.

    80 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 9 (11%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 8 415 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 307 (16%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.

    Following the meeting of Belgium's National Security Council (NSC) yesterday (6 May) small private gatherings with friends and family, at home, from Sunday 10 May has been allowed. The reopening of shops from 11 May has also been confirmed. A decision on allowing visits to second homes and daytrips elsewhere in Belgium has been delayed. This was initially part of the "phase 2" easing of coronavirus measures, provisionally set for 18 May. It has now been postponed until "phase 3", meaning it will not be allowed until 8 June at the earliest. The NSC will also discuss the possible reopening of restaurants at that time.

    Our article with the full NSC statement is here.

    ING and BNP Paribas Fortis have warned of a growing number of scam text messages. Recipients are told that their bank account "has been placed in quarantine" and to click on a link to reactivate it. Don't.

    The relaxed rules on social contact do not mean that grandparents should be looking after their grandchildren all day long. Erika Vlieghe, chair of the expert group on Belgium's "deconfinement" strategy, says: "A short visit, respecting the safe distances, is not the same thing as babysitting your grandchildren all day.”

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 6 May 2020 11:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Phase 1B deconfinement will start from 11 May with widening of social contacts and opening of some businesses under certain conditions.

    This Wednesday, 6 May, the National Security Council (NSC) met to validate, complete and specify the new phase of the deconfinement strategy, namely phase 1b which will begin on 11 May. Experts have given the green light to launch this new phase in light of several favourable criteria including the number of hospitalizations per day, the average downward trend of hospitalizations, the number of beds occupied in intensive care units, and the growth of testing and tracing. These criteria will continue to play a role in the gradual easing of confinement in Belgium.


    10/ 11 May

    In order to respond to the distress and the difficulties caused by social distancing, the NSC first decided to allow a further widening of social contacts from this Sunday (10 May).

    Currently, it is possible to see two people, always the same people, outside, for a walk or to play sports together. This possibility remains, but from 10 May each household will also be able to accommodate in their home up to a maximum of four people; always the same persons. To limit the number of contacts that could spread the virus, the invited people must agree to enter only one household. The objective is to limit as far as possible the risk of contact, while attempting to guarantee the greatest possible reciprocity.

    The following conditions will apply:

    • Social distancing must, of course, be respected with the guests.
    • If the household has a garden or a terrace, it is preferable to organize the visit outdoors.
    • Obviously no visit can be authorized if a family member or the guest is sick.
    • Particular attention should be paid to the elderly or the frail.

    This system also makes it easier to trace the contacts that have taken place between people if one of them later tests positive for COVID-19.

    The NSC will continue to assess the possibilities of expanding these contacts as the different phases progress.

    On 11 May, other businesses will be able to reopen. This reopening must, as for everything else, be done in strict compliance with the following rules:

    • As is the case in shops that are already open only 1 customer will be authorized per 10m² for a maximum of 30 minutes. For smaller businesses an exception will be provided.
    • It is strongly recommended that each customer wears protection covering the nose and mouth in shops. In any case, social distancing must be respected.
    • Employers will be responsible for the health and safety of their employees, and will have to do everything to ensure safe working conditions.

    To avoid crowds, everyone will have to do their shopping alone. An exception will be made for children under the age of 18, who may be accompanied by a parent, and people in need of help. It is also recommended to go to shops located in a city or town near your home or place of work. Excursions and tourist activities are still prohibited. Gatherings also remain prohibited. Local authorities will ensure the application of social distancing rules in public spaces and will take the necessary measures to enforce them. Priority should be given to people over 65, people with reduced mobility and caregivers.

    The use of public transport should only be made if you have no alternative. The goal is to give access to the people who need it most.

    The contact trades, apart from medical and paramedical care, will unfortunately remain closed for the time being.

    The markets cannot resume at this stage either. Only single street vendors (food and non-food) may be authorized, by local authorities, and at their usual locations. As everywhere else, social distancing must be respected.

    Unfortunately, cafes, bars, restaurants and festive, recreational, cultural and tourist venues will remain closed at this stage as well.

    The next stage – 18 May

    The next stage is currently scheduled for 18 May. The Communities and the world of education are already working together to ensure a gradual resumption of lessons in primary and secondary schools.

    Until then, we will determine with the expert group the feasibility and conditions for:

    • The recovery of the markets
    • The reopening of museums, libraries, zoos, etc
    • The reopening of professions with physical contact such as hairdressers
    • The increase in the number of people able to attend wedding ceremonies and funerals
    • The resumption of outdoor sports training. The resumption of sporting and cultural events will also be analysed by the experts on the basis of work tabled by competent ministers to present a more precise calendar through the different phases
    • The question of day trips, visits to second homes etc will be raised during the preparation of phase 3 (estimated date: 8 June).

    The full statement from the NSC (in French) can be found here.

  • 6 May 2020 2:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Wednesday, 6 May 2020.


    Sciensano update of 6 May. 272 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 10 (4%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 50 781 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 186 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    Based on the number of cases per 1000 inhabitants, the commune of Bouillon comes out on top of worst hit places in Belgium, with 17 in every thousand people infected.

    In the past 24 hours, just 116 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 290 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 5 May, a total of 15 855 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 12 731 people have left.

    339 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 52 (15%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 8 339 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 300 (16%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.

    The National Security Council is meeting from 9 am today to discuss phase 1b of the exit strategy, the opening of all stores, currently scheduled for Monday 11 May and future options. A decision on Youth camps organised this summer will only be discussed in "the third week of May" and a limit of 50 young people is being considered. No decision on vacations abroad this summer is expected before the end of May.

    Wider testing for infection with the coronavirus is one of the pillars of the exit strategy. "The role of the GP is crucial in this story," says virologist Steven Van Gucht. Since Monday you can go to a general practitioner for a COVID-19 test, however not all GPs have been able to obtain testing kits. GPs will also soon be able to issue a "quarantine certificate". This specific medical certificate would be issued after a positive tested or previous close contact with infected other persons.

    A study by a team from the University of Ghent and the University of Austin in Texas has shown that llamas produce antibodies capable of neutralising the coronavirus.

    According to a survey by HR company Acerta, 45% of companies would continue to allow home work.

    Store chain Veritas had the highest turnover ever on Monday - on the first day that the shops could reopen, 'after a rush on the shops'

    Mayors of coastal towns have worked out a plan for the summer. They hope to be able to receive day tourists from 8 June.

    The City of Brussels plans to pass an order requiring all restaurants serving takeaways to close by 22h30.

    Throughout the Brussels region, street parking rules will be enforced again from 18 May.

    Five percent of travellers did not wear a mask on STIB vehicles on Monday

    Almost 90% fewer flights were recorded at Brussels Airport in April. No improvement is anticipated for May.

    Until 8 June, Thalys will keep its minimum offer, with one round trip between Brussels and Paris and one round trip between Brussels and Amsterdam per day. From 9 June, more Thalys high-speed trains will run again: about 20% of normal capacity.

    Anyone who does not respect the quarantaine measures risks mandatory hospitalisation, if necessary, with police surveillance. (VRT)

    Under a series of strict conditions, the Botanic Garden of Meise will open its doors again on Friday 8 May.

    The International Cycling Union announced the Tour of Flanders is scheduled to take place on 18 October.

    The “Métro” newspaper will, once again, be available in train and metro stations from 2 June with editions on Tuesdays and Fridays.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 5 May 2020 5:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Tuesday, 5 May 2020.


    Sciensano update of 5 May. 242 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 12 (5%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 50 509 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 176 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, just 84 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 63 people left hospital. This is the third day in a row where less than 100 people have been hospitalised. Between 15 March and 4 May, a total of 15 739 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 12 441 people have left.

    97 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 21 (22%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 8 016 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 247 (16%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.

    Belgium's national security council will meet on Wednesday to discuss the next step in the easing of the country's coronavirus measures - the potential reopening of shops. The experts will discuss a date (provisionally 11 May) and measures aimed at limiting a rush on the shops as soon as they reopen. Also on the agenda will be what should be done about sporting fixtures, including a possible end to the football season.

    New bike lanes in Brussels appeared overnight. On Rue de la Loi one of the four (previously) car lanes is now a bike lane.

    Belgium's florists have been told they cannot reopen early to sell flowers for Mother's Day (this Sunday). The Royal Union of Florists had asked for permission to open from Friday to Sunday, solely as a collection point for customers, who would order and pay online.

    Kids' chain Maxi Toys has applied for bankruptcy protection from its creditors because of the coronavirus shutdown. The group has 200 stores in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

    The coronavirus crisis has put an end to five and a half years of falling unemployment in the Brussels region. At the end of April, Brussels had 87,271 jobseekers - an unemployment rate of 15.5%. The number of job vacancies listed at Actiris has almost halved in April to 1,677.

    The virus's reproduction rate in Belgium is now estimated at 0.6 - down from 0.79 last week. This means the virus is in decline.

    There has been a "clear relaxation" in people's attitudes to the stay-at-home order since the Easter holidays, according to university research based on mobile phone location data. The study found a 30% increase in trips outside of the municipality of residence during the Easter weekend.

    Health insurer Solidaris says it is "unacceptable" that some healthcare providers are adding a "coronavirus surcharge" to their fees - and has called for these to be urgently regulated.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 5 May 2020 4:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Great news for all dedicated Quizzers: UNICEF Belgium has announced its second ‘Lockdown’ Anagram Quiz to keep you amused.


    This month's quiz consists of 20 questions that result in anagrams of surnames of well-known authors. For each of the questions the number of letters corresponding to each clue are given (in parentheses) and a number in bold represents the total number of letters in the author’s name.

    A tie-break question is also set with participants asked to estimate the number of cases of COVID-19 in Belgium up to and including Friday 22 May. The source of this number will be the ‘Global Situation Update as of Saturday 23 May’ published on the ECDC website around noon on that day.

    The UNICEF Question and Answer sheet can be accessed and downloaded here:

    UNICEF Authors Anagram Quiz (V 2.0)_.docx

    The document above is a revised version with a few more hints!

    Quiz schedule

    Answers must be received no later than midnight CEST on Sunday 17 May and the winners will be announced on Saturday 23 May, once the tie-break answer is known.

    The winner and ‘Author Anagram Quiz Champion’ will be the person who has the highest score and whose tie-break answer (if applicable) is closest to the true actual number of cases.

    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 score, but whose tie-break answer is closest to the actual number of cases.

    If you are interested in participating in this month’s quiz, you should email your answers to unicefquiz@gmail.com to arrive before the above deadline.

    How to donate to UNICEF?

    To enter you should donate the suggested entry fee of between EUR 5 and 10 (more if you like!) to the Ex-Pats for UNICEF bank account: BE83 3630 2680 8315 with your name and/ or nickname as given on your submitted answer sheet as the reference.

    All money raised by UNICEF in Belgium will go to support their WASH (WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene) project in Rwanda.

    Please feel free to distribute widely to friends, neighbours and colleagues! Good luck!

  • 4 May 2020 11:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Monday, 4 May 2020.

    Welcome back from the May Day weekend! As of today some #COVID-19 measures are being relaxed in Phase 1a of the Belgian ‘deconfinement’ schedule. But what exactly is changing?

    1. Businesses (only B2B) are reopening.
    2. More children can go to the nursery.
    3. As of today, everyone over 12 years of age must wear a face mask (or equivalent) on public transport.
    4. There are more options for sports and outdoor activities. For example, from now on it is allowed to meet two people for outdoor sports.
    5. Hospitals may readmit non-urgent consultations.
    6. But all other measures will continue to apply. The Bulletin has published a comprehensive guide to what is, and what is not, allowed.

    Sciensano update of 4 May. 361 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 32 (9%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 50 267 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 164 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, just 59 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 69 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 3 May, a total of 15 655 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 12 378 people have left.

    80 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 8 (10%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 7 924 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 227 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.

    On Wednesday 6 May the British Embassy is holding a virtual drop-in session on its facebook page. Do you have questions on your rights as UK national resident in Belgium, or wish to share your concerns or experiences of the current COVID-19 measures? If so join the drop-in session on Wednesday between 17h00 and 19h00. Ambassador Martin Shearman will open the session with a short video, and the Embassy Team will then answer as many of your questions as possible or signpost you to reliable sources of information. More details on the Embassy facebook page.

    Today the European Commission is organising a global coronavirus fundraiser in Brussels. President Ursula von der Leyen hopes to raise EUR 7.5 billion.

    An agreement has been reached on parental "corona" leave with retroactive effect. The parental "corona" leave allowance will be increased by 25% compared to the conventional parental leave, said Minister of Employment Nathalie Muylle.

    A new provision by Minister of Health, Maggie De Block will temporarily allow private nursing homes to call on volunteers to compensate the low staff attendance rate.

    Belgium and the Netherlands have concluded an agreement to prevent frontier workers from being adversely affected by the corona crisis, Finance Minister Alexander De Croo reports.

    All triage centres that will conduct testing from Monday 4 May have been supplied with testing equipment, says federal minister Philippe De Backer.

    The expert group in charge of the exit strategy (GEES) is working on a plan for a possible new lockdown, Professor Erika Vlieghe, in charge of the group of experts, said. But she hopes it won't come to that.

    Virologist Marc Van Ranst is "fairly relaxed" about the first phase of the exit strategy from today, but not about the second phase commencing on 11 May. Van Ranst fears that Belgians will flock to the newly opened shops and that this will lead to irresponsible situations.

    Surgical masks are available in supermarkets from Tuesday. VAT on hand gels and mouth masks will drop from 21 to 6%.

    30% of companies active in the arts and entertainment sector consider the risk of bankruptcy "probable" or "very probable".

    The Federation of Belgian Entrepreneurs thinks "only 80% of employees will be back at work at the end of May".

    Wallonia TEC public transport confirms wearing a mask at the bus stop and on the bus is mandatory, and only one passenger per seat will be allowed. STIB's network will run at 80% of their usual frequency while SNCB and De Lijn will resume their normal timetable from today.

    SNCB are also reminding travellers to maintain a social distance, to wear a mask and on stairs and escalators to keep their right and not to overtake.

    Wearing a mask or scarf will be mandatory at Zaventem airport from Monday 4 May, said federal government spokesperson Philippe Touwaide. This announcement supersedes previous information from airport spokespersons. Passengers on Eurostar & Thalys trains must also wear masks.

    France won’t make quarantine mandatory for travellers from most countries in Europe. If you travel to France from Belgium, the rest of the European Union, the United Kingdom or the Schengen countries, you may enter the country from 11 May if you do not show any symptoms of corona.

    The tracking and tracing strategy. A royal decree stipulates that the tracing data will be stored in a secure database of the Sciensano health institute. The tracing strategy adopted by the three regions is that of the call centre, which will enter into test phase today. There are doubts about its implementation on 11 May, the provisional date for reopening of retail businesses, as the screening capacities must greatly increase to at least 25 000 tests per day. Last week, testing capabilities managed to exceed 20 000 daily tests.

    Dogs are being trained to detect COVID-19, these are dogs already trained for the detection of other diseases.

    Etterbeek commune has required the wearing of masks on shopping streets and near schools such as on the rue des Tongres (Mérode) or the chaussée de Wavre (La Chasse).

    On Friday, 1 May, the “Maison Antoine” chip shop opened for the first time since the start of confinement and Foodmet, the covered market in Anderlecht, has also reopened.

    Molenbeek commune has implemented a temporary mobility plan with speed limits of 20km per hour across its region.

    The Brussels courts will partially resume their activities in May under a modified and progressive regime, courtrooms have been rearranged to allow a partial return.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 30 Apr 2020 12:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Thursday, 30 April 2020.

    Sciensano update of 30 April. 660 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 72 (11%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 48 519 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 4 979 (10%) cases located in Brussels.


    In the past 24 hours, 178 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 293 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 29 April, a total of 15 239 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 11 576 people have left.

    111 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 9 (8%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 7 594 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 158 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.

    The current evolution of the corona crisis makes it possible to relax the measures from 4 May and implement phase 1a of the deconfinement strategy, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has confirmed.

    The government has decided that the sale of surgical mouth masks to private individuals, for example in supermarkets, will be allowed again.

    A tracing application bill allowing to trace the people contaminated by the coronavirus will be submitted to parliament, said a member of Minister De Backer's cabinet.

    Asked about the special powers of the emergency government whose possible extension must be decided before the end of June, Georges-Louis Bouchez confirmed that the liberal party MR would not ask to extend them if the health situation allows.

    By Sunday, all staff and residents of Walloon residential care centres must have undergone a test. This should pave the way to allow visitors afterwards, under strict conditions and if circumstances permit, says Walloon Minister of Health Christie Morreale.

    Professor of intensive care at university hospital UZ Leuven Geert Meyfroidt is "tired but satisfied", now that the corona peak in his hospital is over but says "We are a bit afraid of May 4th."

    Contact tracing in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia: test phase starts on 4 May, full start on 11 May 11. Tracing is the responsibility of the Regions, but common tools are / will be implemented. Contact tracers will have access to a digital platform common to the three entities.

    From Monday 4 May, visitors can again visit facilities for persons with a disability says the Flemish Agency for Persons with a Disability.

    'Six out of ten Belgians already have a mouth mask at home' according to De Standaard.

    From Monday 4 May, the city of Brussels has decided to distribute reusable mouth masks to all its inhabitants older than 12 years. Residents who would like to receive a mask must apply for it themselves.

    From May 4 anyone with symptoms of the viral infection can be tested.

    From the beginning of next week, general practitioners could start testing their patients on a large scale. But at the moment there is not enough testing and protective equipment for the doctors. They point at the lack of tracing information and the lack of coordination at all levels. Non-urgent consultations with doctors will therefore be on the back burner.

    It is important to keep the reproduction rate of the virus (the number of people that a virus carrier can infect) below 1, as an essential factor to manage the pandemic. Currently this is 0.79 in Belgium, according to a study between April 20 and 26.

    The National Bank releases its figures relating to the 1st quarter. Belgium's gross domestic product fell 3.9% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the previous quarter. The corona measures only account for two weeks in that quarter.

    Flemish fishermen might be forced to stop their activity if this situation continues. The majority of them have barely reached break even since fish prices have fallen sharply since mid-March.

    "Repeating a year must be the exception" this school year says Minister Caroline Désir. She decided to cancel external certification tests as well as the end of year exams. Students will be evaluated on the basis of their class work during the year.

    Belgian coastal town mayors will submit a document by 8 May with concrete proposals to the National Security Council: people with second residence would be welcome quite soon, people who rent only in June. No day tourists would be allowed to visit as long as the cafés and restaurants are closed.

    SNCB will be selling cloth mouth masks and alcohol gel through vending machines to passengers in eighty stations across the country.

    Until 1 June, there will be no commercial flights by Brussels Airlines. Once operations resume, it will be with a "reduced but stable flight offer" that will expand with demand. In addition face masks will be compulsory on Brussels Airlines and other companies of the Lufthansa group (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings) from 4 May until the end of August to cover nose and mouth on board the aircraft.

    Belgium was one of the twelve European member states that asked the European Commission on Wednesday to withdraw the obligation for airlines to refund passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the corona crisis. Vouchers would replace refunds.

    Belgian football clubs are selling their own branded mouth masks. The proceeds of the masks do not only serve for the clubs’ finances, but partly go to charity.

    The Walloon Union for the Protection of Animals calls for support of animal shelters and parks during this crisis. Without that support, as many as 70% of associations can only last for another few months.

    French-speaking university UCLouvain shares survey results of 6 500 Belgians: we have not all started drinking during the lockdown.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 29 Apr 2020 2:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Wednesday, 29 April 2020.

    Sciensano update of 29 April. 525 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 75 (14%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 47 859 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 4 907 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, 174 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 340 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 28 April, a total of 14 061 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 11 283 people have left.

    170 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 12 (7%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 7 501 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 149 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.


    Recruitment of contact tracers in Flanders has been delayed and won’t be able to start on Monday 4 May. Flemish Minister of Health Wouter Beke wants to engage an external consultant for the recruitment and logistics of the project but there are problems with the public tender.

    According to Philippe De Backer, around 15,000 PCR tests are now carried out every day in Belgium - comparatively more tests than neighbouring countries.

    The Brussels government has released an additional EUR 22.5 million to support crisis measures in the welfare and health sector. Of this amount, EUR 10 million goes to the implementation of 'contact tracing' and EUR 8 million to protective material for primary care.

    More flexible rules will be introduced for sickness benefits for the self-employed, says Minister of Health Maggie De Block.

    Epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme repeats that mouth masks are used to not infect other people. "Cotton masks block sixty to seventy percent of all transmission."

    The phases of the exit strategy have been outlined, but many things are subject to conditions. For example, the occupation of intensive care [beds] should drop to five hundred patients, says virologist Marc Van Ranst.

    Reports of child abuse have doubled or even tripled at Child Focus since the start of the confinement Figures from the federal police show an increase by 30%.

    Non-urgent interventions in hospitals will be resumed from Monday 4 May.

    A new rapid test from Liège company ZenTech has been validated by the Federal Medicines Agency and can now be comercialised in Belgium.

    In Belgium, more women are infected with the coronavirus than men, according to the latest figures from Public Health Institute Sciensano. Statistics also show that more men die than women. Women are genetically better equipped to resist most infectious diseases, explained the inter-federal spokesperson Covid-19 Yves Van Laethem.

    The National Bank of Belgium will release figures of the first quarter later today.

    Flemish employers' organisation (Voka) requests more clarity on the restart on Monday. No ministerial decree has yet been issued. Voka also calls for extending, from next week, childcare procedures to all parents who must return to their workplace.

    Employees expect concrete information on the future of their work, the financial health of their organisation and the measures to be adopted after the crisis, yet a clear majority of workers is ill-informed about compensation in the event of telework.

    Brussels government will build 40 km of new cycle paths to avoid too many people taking public transport.

    The city of Leuven is considering a one-way street for pedestrians!

    Coastal communes will continue their discussions today on how to organise tourism at the Belgian coast.

    Coronavirus caused a peak in employee absenteeism in March: there were 70% more employees at home due to illness compared to February, according to a survey of HR services company Acerta at 32,000 companies.

    Research by University of Gent shows that only 55.4% of Belgians now support corona measures compared to 80.7% at the start of the lockdown.

    Belgian bishops want gradual resumption of church services.

    The Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren estimates its losses due to the coronavirus at EUR 1 million.

    In March, less fully compensated unemployment was recorded, but there was a record number of temporary unemployed.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 28 Apr 2020 12:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Tuesday, 28 April 2020.

    Sciensano update of 28 April. 647 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 117 (18%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 47 334 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 4 832 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, 123 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 65 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 27 April, a total of 14 887 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 10 943 people have left.

    134 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 16 (12%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 7 331 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 137 (16%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.


    The Government may not be able to deliver enough mouth masks on time for the first start-up phase. Instead, between 4 and 20 May, every citizen will receive two filters for a mouth mask in their letterbox. The government entrusted the companies Sioen and Deltrian with the task of producing 20 million filters which will be used to improve the quality of the fabric masks which will have to be worn on public transport from 4 May.

    It looks like the current Wilmès government will not be able to continue after June. The French-speaking socialists of the PS will not ask for an extension of the special powers, unless the health crisis flares up again. The French-speaking liberal party MR also regrets the positions expressed over the past few days with regard to the special powers and the trust granted to the federal government.

    It is uncertain whether the introduction of a "corona leave" for working parents with young children can start on 1 May. The text of the decision is ready, according to the Muylle cabinet, but it still has to get clearance from the federal government.

    "Until May 4, it is essential that everyone stays at home". The start of ‘deconfinement’ is approaching, but the epidemic is not over, says Steven Van Gucht.

    From 4 May it will be possible to go to a general practitioner (GP) again, most likely by appointment and following strict distancing measures.

    Most physiotherapists are ready to resume service from 4 May, their professional association Axxon said.

    The mental health sector will start psychiatric treatment again as soon as possible from 4 May. Three out of five treatments were discontinued during the confinement.

    Etterbeek commune has made the decision to distribute two reusable masks per inhabitant.

    Gradual resumption of economic activities is now envisaged, and with it, the fear of many workers of the return to work, and of the conditions under which this will take place. A "right of withdrawal" for employees exists in Belgian law. This is an individual right for all workers to leave their job in case of "grave and imminent danger" - without the risk of being dismissed. The legal position is detailed in a note by the University ULB. It has never been used in Belgium to date.

    18% of Belgian workers fear losing their jobs due to the crisis. This is the result of the 11th annual barometer from the Acerta human resources services group.

    Belgium has opted for a call centre rather than a tracing app. 2000 people should be recruited in the coming days. It will be difficult to recruit them on time. “Mutualities” (health insurers) might step in as they have professional structures that are trained to work in the use of confidential medical records.

    TUI Belgium has cancelled all holidays and flights until 7 June at least. Foreign travel may not be allowed again until 8 June at the earliest.

    On 4 May, De Lijn will largely resume its normal timetable. And on STIB/ MIVB the capacity of trams, buses and metros will be gradually revised upwards from 4 May.

    Parents are bringing their children to childcare nurseries more often, as they find it too difficult to combine raising kids with telework. Since last week, the Partena health insurance fund has noticed an increase since the start of the lockdown, with numbers going back to 40 – 45% of normal occupancy.

    The Spa 24 Hours race will take place on 24-25 October. The race was originally scheduled for 25-26 July.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 27 Apr 2020 11:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Monday, 27 April 2020.

    Sciensano update of 27 April. 553 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 77 (14%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 46 687 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 4 715 (10%) cases located in Brussels.


    In the past 24 hours, 127 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 93 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 26 April, a total of 14 764 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 10 878 people have left.

    113 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 12 (11%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 7 207 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 129 (16%) were in Brussels.

    Read the full daily report (in French) here.

    A summary of the National Security Council measures announced on 24 April. You can access an English translation of the full government press statement here.

    "May 4 is a starting moment," said Prime Minister Wilmès. "There is absolutely no certainty that the stores will open on May 11. Everything we have decided is conditional. That is the whole philosophy of the approach. Everything depends on the further spread of the virus."

    From 4 May:

    • A mouth mask is recommended in public places.
    • A mouth mask or equivalent is mandatory on public transport for everyone over the age of 12.
    • Industries and B2B services can resume.
    • Fabric and yarn stores can reopen in order for people to make their own masks.
    • General and specialised health care will be gradually and safely expanded
    • Two people (previously one) or a family can do outdoor sports with respect for the safe distance (but changing rooms, canteens, etc. must remain closed). Outdoor activities must be active, you can’t remain static (sit on a bench or sunbathe in the parks for example)
    • Working from home should remain the norm.

    From 11 May:

    • All shops might be allowed to reopen (but not restaurants, cafes and hairdressers)

    From 18 May:

    • Gradual and partial opening of primary and secondary schools with priority given to diploma years, such as 6th primary and 6th secondary, in smaller classes of maximum 10 students. The wearing of cloth masks will be compulsory for teachers and students (over 12) all day long (there would be a test day on 15 May for schools that wish it).

    The further the date, the less certain these measures become and are highly dependent on how the disease evolves. Amongst measures still to be discussed are:

    • Possibility of small private meetings at home.
    • The opening of museums could be considered, subject to conditions (some museums – see below - are planning for reopening on 18 May).
    • For contact professions (such as hairdressers), the situation will be examined
    • You may be allowed to exercise in the open air with more than two people who do not live under your roof
    • For group sports, outdoor training will be allowed again if

    o It is an approved sports club

    o A trainer is present

    o Social distancing is respected

    • Day trips within Belgium might be possible in this phase.
    • People with a second residence could visit their homes for a day trip.

    From 8 June at the earliest (and very uncertain):

    • Cafés, restaurants might be able to open again step by step under strict conditions
    • Youth summer camps (this will be discussed end of May)

    Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès stated that every Belgian will receive at least one cloth mouth mask from the government. The government has ordered 12 million cloth masks. Local authorities are also busy, said Philippe De Backer. The use of mouth masks will be mandatory on public transport from May 4, but by then it will not be possible to deliver a fabric mouth mask to everyone, said Deputy Prime Minister Koen Geens.

    Some 10 000 coronavirus screening tests were carried out each day last week in Belgium, said the cabinet of Minister Philippe De Backer. In the meantime, more than 110 000 complete testing kits have been sent to communities. 90 000 tests have already been taken and registered: almost 9 out of 10 tests were negative. In the coming weeks, the testing capacity will be further increased, it must exceed 20 000 by next week and will then be increased to more than 25 000 tests per day.

    “The extended Easter weekend of two weeks ago has not led to a significant increase in the number of infections,” says virologist Steven Van Gucht. However, he warns that the number of deaths will continue to increase in the coming months.

    For measures to be softened from 4 May, hospital admissions should drop from 200 to 100, says virologist Marc Van Ranst, patients on intensive care should not be more than 450 says virologist Steven Van Gucht.

    Some 4.3% of the Belgian population has developed antibodies against the new coronavirus, reports Sciensano.

    Red Cross calls for blood donations as hospitals will gradually resume activities early May. "If blood supplies were good three weeks ago, they have declined sharply since then," said spokesperson Thomas Paulus.

    Markets and market vendors will certainly not be able to resume on 11 May. "We do not know where we stand and when we can resume our activities," said Rudi De Wilde, chairman of their national association.

    "At this stage", Brussels Airlines still plans to resume flights on 15 May, said a spokeswoman for the airline. A final decision will be made soon.

    SNCB and Infrabel are committed to resuming train services "almost completely" from Monday 4 May.

    The municipalities on the Belgian coast will work together to better manage the influx of tourists, expected from 18 May and this summer, while respecting the measures intended to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

    The Léopold II tunnel in Brussels is closed from 22h00 on Sunday in both directions. For the moment, the renovation works will continue day and night because there is now less traffic in the capital. The construction and renovation works are scheduled to take 4 months.

    More than 60 000 police reports relating to breaking the confinement rules have been drawn up since the start of the lockdown. The total amount of settlements (aka issued fines) for offenses now amounts to EUR 2.2 million. The College of Prosecutors wants the unpaid fines to be recovered via taxes.

    Museums are considering partial reopening from 18 May as feasible. The sector had already put that date forward in its own exit strategy developed behind the scenes.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

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