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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 -----------

  • 5 Jun 2020 2:33 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Friday 5 June 2020 – Excess mortality now ‘normal’.

    Belgium has recorded no "excess mortality" since 11 May. This means that the number of deaths is no higher than it would ordinarily have been at this time of year. Between 16 March and 10 May, Belgium had an average excess mortality of 47% due to coronavirus. When the virus peaked, in the week of 6 April, excess mortality was at 95%, which meant that almost twice as many people died in that week than would normally be expected.

    Sciensano statistics update of 5 June. 140 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 34 (24%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 58 907 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 6 010 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, 32 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 64 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 4 June, a total of 17 407 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 16 112 people have left. Currently 137 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units in Belgian hospitals.

    29 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 2 (7%) were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 566 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 458 (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)

  • 4 Jun 2020 1:07 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The COVID-19 selected news snippets for Thursday 4 June 2020 – Lockdown eases and more.

    Our article on the full announcement of lockdown easement measures from Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès can be found here. 

    In summary:

    • From 8 June, Belgians are allowed to meet weekly with up to 10 others - the so-called ‘extended bubble’ - outside their family/ household.
    • The catering industry can reopen on 8 June. Cafés, restaurants and night shops will be allowed to stay open until 1am. At the restaurant and café, there should be 1.5 meters between the tables (with a maximum of 10 people per table) and all customers should remain seated. Staff will wear face masks. Clubs cannot reopen before the end of August.
    • In the cultural sector, activities without an audience can take place from 8 June. From 1 July, an audience of maximum 200 people can be present. Cinemas will also open for 200 people on 1 July. Amusement parks can open from 1 July with mask wearing recommended. Major events remain prohibited until 31 August.
    • Fitness centres can reopen on 8 June, for amateurs and professional athletes, indoor and outdoor. Contact sports such as football, basket or judo are limited to contactless training. From 1 July, a seated audience of up to 200 people is allowed, respecting the safety distances. Wellness centres, saunas and indoor and outdoor pools must remain closed.
    • Religious services can take place again from 8 June with 100 people, and from 1 July with 200.
    • Weddings, banquets and receptions can take place from 8 June with 50 people, subject to compliance with the distance rules.
    • Travel is possible from 8 June within Belgium, from 15 June within the European Union, Schengen and the United Kingdom, depending on the country of destination’s own rules. Travel outside Europe has yet to be discussed.
    • Teleworking is still recommended where possible.

    "The social distance rule will not apply to your broader social bubble," said Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès. "Eating together or inviting people to your house ... It is very difficult to maintain a social distance". "But do not try to kiss your friends or greet them too closely," she added. "Although there is of course an area of understanding, because we want to see more people in more sociable circumstances."

    Who can you count in your weekly bubble of ten? Virologist Marc Van Ranst emphasises that these are people with whom we have intensive and close contact. According to Van Ranst, your [work] colleagues do not belong to that group.

    Clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine can resume, announces WHO after analysing "available data on mortality".

    Pharmacies located in the Brussels Region will soon be able to report domestic violence. A resolution to this effect was approved unanimously on Tuesday in the Equal Opportunities Committee of the regional parliament.

    Cancer sufferers have twice the risk of dying from Covid-19 compared to non-cancer patients, a large study found. The more advanced the cancer, the greater the risk of dying, the study published in the medical journal The Lancet noted.

    The population increase in Belgium will be much smaller due to COVID-19 at 17 000 inhabitants instead of the predicted 50 000. The increase in deaths and the reduction in migratory flows are the main reasons. And average life expectancy is predicted to decreases by five months in 2020.

    A majority of farmers in Belgium have suffered financially during the corona crisis and expect further losses in the future, according to a survey by the Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Nutrition Research.

    Eight out of 10 Belgians want to return to a cafe or restaurant as soon as they reopen.

    STIB has lost two-thirds of its travellers. 2019 was another record year for Brussels public transport. 2020 will be a year of patience. 39% of Belgians no longer want to take the metro, according to a study by Brussels University VUB.

    Cycling is growing in popularity in Brussels with both residents and commuters.

    1 in 5 Belgians still hesitate to go on holiday, but younger people are more enthusiastic.

    Brussels Airport: the temperature of all passengers will be systematically checked with a system installed for both departing and arriving passengers as of 15 June 15.

    Sunweb will offer holidays from 15 June to destinations in France, Italy, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus first. More destinations such as Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia will follow gradually.

    Italy will allow travel to and from abroad again from Wednesday. All airports in the country are open and Italians are also allowed to travel all over the country again.

    Wizz airline launches flights on Monday between Brussels and Budapest.

    Due to the relaxation of measures, efficient tracing of infections is a must. Currently the investigators have hardly any work. By September, it will become very serious, especially with a second wave. Flanders currently employs 400 contact researchers, but at the moment there is almost technical unemployment with barely 60 infections reported a day.

    Races can start again on Monday at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

    The Manneken-Pis museum now ready to welcome the public.

    Sciensano statistics update of 4 June. Just 82 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 7 (9%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 58 767 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 976 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, only 21 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 89 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 2 June, a total of 17 375 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 16 048 people have left. Currently 143 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units in Belgian hospitals.

    28 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 3 (11%) were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 548 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 467 (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)

  • 4 Jun 2020 9:51 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    On Wednesday,3 June, the Belgian National Security Council (NSC) approved the transition to phase 3 of the deconfinement plan, starting on 8 June, thanks to the encouraging data from Belgian health authorities.

    The new rules, announced by Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, mark a radical change in approach compared to the rules in force at present: now freedom is the rule and prohibitions are the exception.

    The activities which remain prohibited do so because they involve either too close contact between individuals, or are mass gatherings or because protocols / specific rules for a sector have not yet could be defined.

    This new approach can be understood on two levels. First, individual behaviour (what behaviour should I adopt when faced with these freedoms?) And secondly, the regulatory framework that applies to an organised activity (which protocols are implemented by professionals to organise an activity?).

    So what can we do from 8 June?

    1. Regarding individual behaviour, there are six golden rules:

    • Hygiene measures remain essential;
    • Outdoor activities should, as far as possible, be favoured. If necessary, for indoor activities, the rooms must be sufficiently ventilated;
    • Additional precautions are necessary with persons at risk. A charter is being prepared for senior volunteers to provide them with a little more clarity as to the activities they can practice safely;
    • The safety distances remain in effect except for people in your household, for children under 12 years of age, and for people with whom you have closer contact, in other words the ‘extended bubble’. If necessary, you should to wear a mask;
    • You can now have closer contact with 10 different people per week in addition to your household (this is the ‘extended bubble’ referred to above). This is an individual right and you can change the people in your ‘bubble’ every week;
    • Group meetings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people, including children. This applies to all meetings, regardless of whether they take place at your home or outside it (e.g.in the park or restaurant).

    2. About the regulatory framework:

    • All organised activities resume, unless the restart is planned in another phase, with protocols that protect both users and staff. These protocols are determined by the competent minister and on the advice of the Expert Grooup during consultations with the sector and in the case of north-south matters, with an inter-federal approach;
    • The protocols will be evaluated by July 1. If no protocol exists for a sub-sector, a document will be made public in order to give the general rules which must at apply as a minimum;
    • It is recommended that people continue to telework wherever possible.
    • The hospitality, sports and culture sectors are the major sectors for which important decisions have been taken and the new rules are detailed below.

    Hospitality sector

    This sector may partially reopen. However, the games rooms (for example casinos), the banquet and reception rooms can only reopen on 1 July. Regarding banquet and reception rooms, this will be possible with a maximum of 50 people present, under the same conditions as catering. Nightclubs will not be allowed to open until the end of August to avoid unsafe social distancing.

    Apart from these exceptions, all other catering establishments such as cafes, bars and restaurants will be opened again, in accordance with a very precise protocol.

    The main features of this protocol are:

    • A distance of 1.50 m between the tables;
    • A maximum of 10 people per table;
    • Each client must remain seated at his own table;
    • Waiters must wear a mask;
    • All food establishments, including night shops, can remain open until 1:00 a.m.

    Cultural sector

    From June 8, cultural activities without an audience can resume. Performances with the public - including cinemas - may resume from 1 July, but always according to specific rules relating to audience management, such as respecting safety distances for the public and a maximum of 200 people present.

    The organisation of activities should be planned in such a way as to avoid large gatherings, for example, outside the auditorium.

    When people participate in cultural activities, and also leisure activities, the wearing of a mask is always recommended.

    Sports and, now also cultural activities organised and supervised by a manager are limited to 20 people in June and 50 people in July, in order to respect social distances.

    In these two above sectors the very gradual reopening and the associated conditions will make profitability more difficult. At the federal and regional level, in addition to extending or adapting generic measures to support the economy, the government is working on a series of targeted measures to help certain sectors.

    Sports sector

    From 8 June, contactless sports activities may resume, whether indoor or outdoor, exercised as an amateur or at a professional, competitive and training level. The gyms and fitness areas can also reopen, subject to respecting the protocol.


    • Contact sports (for example judo, boxing, football, etc.) must always be limited to training that is "contactless";
    • With regard to sports infrastructure, the protocols must also be followed. Changing rooms and showers will still not be accessible;
    • Swimming pools, saunas and wellness centres should remain closed at this stage.

    Note that as far as sport is concerned, everything will be allowed again from 1 July on condition that the protocols are respected.

    Whether in the cultural sector or the sports sector, a maximum seated audience of 200 people will be allowed from 1 July, respecting safety distances and protocols.


    • Religious or philosophical cults can resume from 8 June under the following rules:
    • The safety distance must be respected with a maximum of 100 people present;
    • From July, this number of people will be extended to 200, in parallel with the cultural and sports sector;
    • Rites that involve physical contact are prohibited.


    From 8 June, it will be possible to go on an excursion for one or more days in Belgium.

    From 15 June, Belgium will reopen its borders to and from the European Union, including the United Kingdom, and the other four Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway). Please note, however, that each country alone decides whether or not to open its borders. Therefore, to find out the situation in your country of destination, it is advisable to consult the Belgian Foreign Affairs website. Conditions for travel outside Europe have yet to be determined in the light of the progress of discussions at European level.

    Leisure and relaxation

    Leisure and relaxation activities are authorised from June 8, with the exception of conferences, amusement parks and indoor playgrounds, which cannot resume until 1 July.


    In the case of cultural and leisure activities, these must be organised to avoid mass gatherings and wearing a mask is always recommended.

    Gatherings (for example fairs, village festivals, etc.) will remain prohibited until 1 August and may then resume gradually. However, major mass events will remain banned until 31 August, as previously announced.

    An online assessment tool will be made available at the beginning of summer for organisers who wish to find out about the possibility or not of organising an event and what conditions will apply.

    Phases 4 and 5 of our deconfinement strategy will take place in July and August, if the epidemiological conditions allow.

    Read the original statement (in French) here.

  • 3 Jun 2020 4:42 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Wednesday 3 June 2020 – Lockdown is easing from Monday!

    The National Security Council (NSC) has met today (Wednesday 3 June) and confirms that Belgium will begin phase 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown easement from Monday 8 June

    This means that from Monday:

    • The rules on social contacts outside your home have been eased, allowing every individual to meet up to 10 people per week.
    • Gatherings - at home, in a park or in a restaurant - will be allowed for up to 10 people, children included.
    • Cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen from 8 June, with a 1.5 metre distance between tables and a maximum 10 people per table. Bar service will not be available and waiters must wear a mask.
    • All restaurants must close by 1.00 in the morning. Night shops can also stay open until 1.00.
    • Casinos can reopen from 1 July. Party venues can accommodate up to 50 people, from 1 July. Nightclubs will remain closed until the end of August.
    • Sports activities can return to normal from 8 June, outdoors and indoors. Gyms will be allowed to reopen, provided safety distances are maintained.
    • Contact sports remain banned. Swimming pools, spas remain closed for now. These should reopen from 1 July.
    • Religious ceremonies are allowed from 8 June, with a maximum 100 people in attendance. This will be extended to 200 people from 1 July.
    • Excursions within Belgium - a day trip or longer - can go ahead from 8 June. Cross-border travel within the EU should be allowed from 15 June.

    Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said the next phase would be "a crucial next step" in the easing of Belgium's coronavirus restrictions, and other stages would follow in July and August.

    The basic safety rules remain in place: wash your hands, prioritise outdoor activities over indoors as much as possible, be extra careful around at-risk people, and maintain social distancing.

    Remote working remains recommended wherever possible and large gatherings remain banned until 31 August.

    Sciensano statistics update of 3 June. Just 70 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 6 (9%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 58 685 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 969 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, only 31 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 25 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 2 June, a total of 17 354 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 15 959 people have left.

    17 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 9 522 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 464 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Currently 172 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)

  • 1 Jun 2020 3:11 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    A very Happy Belgian Bank Holiday Monday to you! Your COVID-19 selected news snippets for Monday 1 June 2020.

    The National Security Council (NSC) will be meeting on Wednesday 3 June and, amongst other thing, will be considering the new measures required for the catering sector. The federal government and the hospitality industry have prepared a restart guide. "Account has been taken of restaurants that would like to organise two shifts in succession," said Minister Muylle. The NSC will consider measures including mandatory closing time at midnight, tables should be 1.5 meters apart in both cafés and restaurants; reservations to be mandatory for a restaurant and for cafes either a reservation is made or at least one person at a table must contact details. Ordering or sitting at the bar will not be allowed - staff, with a mask, will serve you at the table. Menus will be banned instead look at the chalk boards etc. And restaurants may not offer a bread basket, butter dish, salt and pepper, oil and vinegar, etc – all such items must be individually packaged portions. Catering and hotel sector expects 45 % fewer customers when it reopens.

    The borders with the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany are now open for family visits and shopping, but not the French border. Belgium in favour of opening the internal borders of Europe from June 15. Interior Minister Pieter De Crem announced this on Friday night on his Facebook page.

    Everyone will be able to get tested for the presence of antibodies against the coronavirus says Minister of Health Maggie De Block.

    A second wave of the corona pandemic will be "highly likely", says Herman Goossens, Antwerp professor and internationally renowned microbiologist, specialised in antibiotic resistance. And he is worried about research on covid-19 treatments. "We don't know which products will help when the second wave starts," he says.

    However, when asked whether the phasing out of the corona measures is not going too fast, virologist Steven Van Gucht says: “We are now nineteen days further. That is enough to see a possible effect. And the numbers are still good. We see no effect of the relaxation for the time being.”

    Only 4.7 % of blood donors have antibodies to the coronavirus, according to residual samples from the Red Cross that Sciensano has been investigating since late March. The number has not increased since the measurements at the end of April, which means that there is still no question of group immunity.

    End of lockdown in residential care centres: new admissions to the old people’s homes will be allowed from 8 June. Since 12 March it has not been possible for residential care centres to welcome new guests.

    GDP contracted by 3.6 % in the first quarter of 2020 according to the National Bank of Belgium.

    Brussels market news: the Abattoirs outside market in Anderlecht reopened on Thursday with 50 stalls for a first 4-day weekend until Sunday. Indoors, the Foodmet, considered a shopping centre, had already started up again the weekend of May 21 with a capacity limited to some 300 visitors. No satisfactory solution has yet been found for the marché du midi. The Chaussée d'Anvers market should reopen on Wednesday, taking turns with the merchants of Place Emile Bockstael the following weekend. The flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle remains closed.

    Coastal mayors need "More time … to properly organise the arrival of day visitors."

    One in three Belgians will opt for a holiday in their own country this year.

    Brussels: fines return for non-compliance with the low-emission zone from 1 July. These fines were temporarily suspended in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

    From June 15, tourists and travellers from 29 countries will be allowed to re-enter Greece without quarantining, the Ministry of Tourism announced. Belgium (or UK) is not one of those countries.

    The Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church, in collaboration with the exit strategy expert group, has developed a detailed protocol with safety regulations for a resumption of public celebrations in the churches. In a first phase, a maximum of one hundred participants per celebration is allowed.

    Sciensano virus stats update of 1 June. 136 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 26 (19%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 58 517 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 947 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, only 25 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 32 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 31 May, a total of 17 297 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 15 919 people have left.

    19 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 4 (21%) were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 486 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 463 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Currently 163 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)

  • 28 May 2020 1:19 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Thursday 28 May 2020.

    New measures for education were announced as of last night (27 May):

    For kindergartens: All kindergarten years can reopen from June 2. The pre-schoolers are taught as was the case before corona. So they are taught in their entire class and the teacher should not wear a mask. A mouth mask is recommended for contacts between teachers. Respecting the safety distance is not required.

    For primary schools: All primary school years can reopen from June 8. A trial day is possible from June 5. Students should not wear a mask, but it is recommended for teachers if they cannot keep sufficient distance. ‘Contact bubbles’ are used in class. It is the intention that even outside the classroom the bubbles stay together as much as possible - in the playground, for example.

    For secondary schools: From the June 2, in addition to the sixth-year students (and possibly seventh-year students), the second and fourth year-students can also come to school two days a week. Pupils of the first, third and fifth years of secondary school will have to come a few more days this school year, with a minimum of one day, to be able to close the school year in their familiar class. Students and teachers are strongly advised to wear a mouth mask. In secondary education, the distance rules still apply: four square meters per student and lessons in fixed classrooms in fixed groups of maximum 14 students. Only for certain practical subjects can students move to other classrooms.

    The above is "a maximum scenario". Schools can always deviate from this depending on the local circumstances and safety situation.

    ICYMI The World Health Organization has paused the use of hydroxychloroquine in its global study of COVID-19 treatments amid a review of safety data. Belgian public health institution Sciensano has changed its guidelines for hospitalised coronavirus patients. It now strongly discourages the use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

    Nearly 70 % of Europeans believe the European Union should be empowered to deal with crises such as the corona pandemic, says a survey the European Parliament conducted among 20 000+ EU citizens.

    The catering industry will not reopen before June 8, confirms the Minister of Economy.

    Only 6 % of the Belgian population has been exposed to the coronavirus, warns virologist Steven Van Gucht. This means that 94 % of the population can still be infected. “This is the harsh reality: the virus still has a large open play area where it can wreak havoc.” Backing this up in early May, only 8.4 % of health workers in Belgian hospitals had antibodies according to a study by Sciensano and the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

    In contrast "A very large majority" of patients with a minor form of COVID-19 develop antibodies that could then immunise them "for several weeks" against the disease, according to a study by the Institut Pasteur and the Strasbourg University Hospital.

    Red Cross Flanders urgently needs blood donors. Before the corona crisis, the Red Cross had more than 400 donors daily, now barely 200. The extended Pentecost weekend is imminent and there is currently too little stock. The Red Cross is also seeking plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVIDd-19.

    In Woluwe-Saint-Lambert some 80 000 masks have been distributed in letter boxes this week, but more than one in two Brussels residents do not wear a mask.

    Playgrounds are open again for under-13s.

    The exotic market on Saturday and the Vogelenmarkt on Sunday will start again in Antwerp this weekend.

    The catering sector calls for urgent measures such as a form of VAT reduction. The unions even propose to make restaurant costs 100 percent deductible for private individuals as well. Preparing for the restart, 200 catering establishments in Brussels have already requested terrace extensions.

    The National Union of Landlords and Co-owners (SNPC) is opposing the extension of the moratorium on home evictions until August 31 in the Brussels-Capital Region.

    The arrival and departure halls of Brussels Airport are open again for people who pick up or drop off passengers, but masks are required. The federal police can still close access to the arrival hall on certain repatriation flights to avoid too many people in the hall.

    In Brussels rush hour is reemerging and De Lijn, STIB and NMBS are seeing a steady increase in occupancy. Buses in Flanders have a passenger occupancy of 25-30%. SNCB has 20 % of its normal number of travellers. Brussels public transport company STIB sees its passenger numbers rise from 22 % to 28 % in the metro and to 30 % 'above ground'.

    More than 50 STIB drivers paid tribute to their colleague who died of COVID-19. The company now plans to test its staff for the virus.

    Zeebrugge and Blankenberge want to work together to spread tourists across their beaches. If you want to sunbathe on the beach of Blankenberge this summer, you will have to do so behind a wind break and a maximum of 10 000 people will be admitted, one-third of the nominal high summer capacity.

    The Bois de la Cambre will partially reopen to car traffic today (Thursday) in a classic Belgian compromise. The park will remain largely car-free until the end of the summer. The two roads at the northern end of the park have reopened to motorists from Monday to Saturday until the end of August. The south of the park will remain car-free and open to recreational activities.

    Brussels Airlines will resume its flights (gradually) from 15 June. By the end of August, the airline will again offer some 60 destinations in 33 countries. Those who have already booked a flight, but couldn’t take it, can rebook their ticket free of charge until the end of 2021.

    The contact tracking app is back on the health ministers' agenda. The proposed technology behind it is the same as in other European countries and is as privacy friendly as possible. Live tests of the tracing application that will help trace the contacts of a coronavirus patient are expected to take place in early July.

    City of Brussels confirms that the football cup final between Antwerp and Club Brugge will take place on August 1 without an audience.

    Sciensano statistics update of 28 May. 257 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 28 (11%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 57 849 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 870 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, some 47 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 107 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 27 May, a total of 17 174 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 15 572 people have left.

    31 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 3 (10%) were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 388 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 437 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Currently 208 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)

  • 25 May 2020 3:13 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Monday, 25 May 2020.

    What are the new measures as of today (25 May)?:

    • Academies for part-time art education can restart in phases.
    • Parents and prospective students, who do not have access to digital alternatives, can visit a school for a guided tour, for example. The visits must take place when there are no pupils in the school, can only take place after an individual appointment.
    • Limited visits are possible in prisons: one visit per prisoner per week, preferably the same person, no minors and with distance.
    • The visiting arrangements in psychiatric care homes and residential rehabilitation facilities are expanding. From now on, several people from the same contact bubble can visit and the residents can leave the facility for activities or for a day visit or an overnight stay. Residents can once again take individual days of leave in psychiatric care homes. They are also given the opportunity to do an activity with two other people outside the facility. Group and sports activities can also be restarted under certain conditions. The facilities can determine themselves whether and when these visits and activities are possible.
    • Minors and adults with a disability who have stayed with their care provider or home day and night since the lockdown, can gradually go back temporarily for one or more days, or vice versa, to their care provider.
    • The local services can reopen their doors for one-on-one services, such as hairdresser, pedicure and manicure, takeaway and psychosocial support.

    National Security Council will meet on June 3. The focus will be on the cultural, catering and sports sectors.

    Interior Minister Pieter De Crem repeated that border controls will certainly not be lifted before 8 June. But at the same time, he made it clear that visiting family in neighbouring countries will be possible sooner.

    Temporary unemployed is not as expensive as expected. Minister of Work Nathalie Muylle proposes to extend the temporary unemployment due to the crisis until the end of August. Temporary unemployment in March and April cost EUR 1.3 billion, according to figures from the minister, while a cost of up to EUR 3 billion was expected.

    In the last quarter, some 44 % fewer 'classic' hospital admissions with overnight accommodation were made in hospitals. 76 % of the planned operations have been postponed and two-thirds of consultations have been cancelled.

    70 % of residential care centres are now virus free.

    There were 51 % more deaths than normal between March 16 and early May in Belgium equivalent to some 7 794 ‘excess’ deaths.)

    Youth summer camps and courses may take place from 1 July with a maximum of 50 participants.

    Teleworking is applied more in Belgium than in other European countries according to an SD Worx survey. Belgium is one of the European countries where a large proportion (62 %) of the working population is teleworking during confinement. The average for six European countries (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Netherlands and United Kingdom) is 57 %.

    Horeca (hotels, restaurants, cafés) Flanders fears loss of 20 000 to 36 000 jobs. With the Dutch catering industry reopening on 1 June, the pressure in Flanders is also increasing. Horeca Flanders urges clarity for the more than 60 000 catering entrepreneurs. Restaurants, bars are advocating for a reduction in VAT to 6% for one year.

    Foreign tourists are welcome again in Spain from July.

    French local politicians want a quick reopening of the border with Belgium. Several MPs, senators and local politicians in the French Ardennes and the president of the Grand Est region urged the French government on Friday to urgently reopen the Franco-Belgian border. They point to the economic difficulties facing the region, which was already struggling before the outbreak of the corona crisis.

    France regrets the measure taken by Britain to impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine on visitors from mainland Europe and is now considering introducing a similar measure for visitors making the reverse move to France. The measure would have no implications for Belgians crossing the French border.

    Anyone arriving in Ireland from Thursday will be required to notify the authorities of where he or she spends 14 days of quarantine.

    The authorities may reopen neighbourhood playgrounds in the open air from Wednesday, 27 May. Larger playgrounds in parks can also open again when a maximum of 20 children can be guaranteed.

    Sciensano statistics update of 25 May. 250 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 25 (10%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 57 342 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 811 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, some 27 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 25 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 24 May, a total of 17 052 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 15 297 people have left.

    32 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 4 (12%) were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 312 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 427 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Currently 251 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) 

  • 24 May 2020 1:41 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The current coronavirus crisis has reminded us how much we rely on each other, how much society and community matter, and how much kindness and selflessness can contribute to our common good. The British Charitable Fund (BCF) in Belgium has been an exemplar of that approach for over 200 years, helping countless people through tough times.

    The BCF was founded in 1815, at the request of the Duke of Wellington, to help injured soldiers and their dependants who remained in Belgium after the Battle of Waterloo. Today, the organisation continues this work to help British nationals and their dependants in Belgium in times of need.

    People come to the BCF in times of personal crisis. They may be young or old, long-term residents in Belgium or new arrivals, and they come from all walks of life (see the case studies below). The BCF is non-denominational and non-judgemental, and simply does what it takes to get lives back on track.

    The problems people encounter are many and varied and can turn lives upside down. For instance, coping with administrative issues when grieving the loss of a spouse can often be daunting, and loneliness and isolation (often coupled with poverty) can be longer-term problems for many people, not necessarily the elderly. Language barriers only add to difficulties and Brexit has added yet another layer of uncertainty and anxiety for many people, often the most vulnerable amongst us.

    Case study #1. Diana was travelling in Belgium but had an accident which meant she could not walk. She missed her flight home and found herself stranded at the airport. After contacting the consulate and spending a night in A&E at a Brussels hospital, the BCF stepped in to buy her a ticket so that she could return home to the UK to recover.

    “As a result of Brussels’ situation at the heart of the EU, many British people have, over the past forty years, made Belgium their permanent home and whilst many live comfortable, long lives, this is not the case for all, and old-age, failing health and financial issues can quickly turn secure situations into a real struggle to get by,” says BCF Chairperson Julie Huckle. “Also, many people suffer from the pressures of modern-day life, and addiction and family issues can take a serious toll too. Each of our beneficiaries has a unique story, no two cases are the same and it is always good to know that, no matter what the situation, the charity can offer advice, material assistance, or simply a conversation.”

    Advice & support

    The BCF can help with advice, financial support, or regular visits to combat loneliness. There is no limit to the type of help the fund can give, ranging from a weekly meeting over a cup of tea, to arranging legal or financial advice, to providing significant long-term financial support. And all the BCF’s work is, of course, completely confidential.

    Case study #2. Andrew and Sheila had lived in Belgium for many years when Andrew died unexpectedly. Sheila was left alone and deeply confused in her grief. The BCF was contacted by a family member and helped Sheila to take the first tentative steps towards resuming her life.

    However, the BCF is concerned that there may be many needy people who are simply not aware of the help that the fund can offer. “In the midst of the uncertainty surrounding the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, the BCF is devoted to increasing awareness of its activities amongst the British community in Belgium,” explains Julie. “And we continue to explore possibilities for extending contact within the community.”

    The BCF works with a committee and group of unpaid volunteers and sees itself as the ‘agency of last resort’; only stepping in when applicants have exhausted the normal means of support from family or government agencies. However, its structure means it can react very quickly (often within a day) and flexibly with support which can last for as little as a few days or continue for many years.

    Case study #3. Edward lived in a rented house, which was no longer a safe place for him. For his own well-being, he needed to move to a new home, but did not have the funds to pay the guarantee deposit. The BCF loaned him the money so that he could move and start to recover his health.

    The BCF works closely with other organisations also active in helping British nationals in Belgium including other BBCA associated charities such as the Royal British Legion (RBL), the Community Help Service (CHS) and the Wednesday Club.

    The fund liaises regularly with the Consulate and the British Embassy in Brussels who, when their powers to intervene are limited, refer cases to the BCF.

    You can help?

    In a world where vulnerable people can easily find themselves in difficult situations, the calls on the BCF’s resources are increasing. New volunteers are always welcome, but if you do not have the time to spare, join the BBCA in donating towards the fund’s activities. As a registered Belgian charity all donations over EUR 40 are tax deductible. You can make a bank transfer now to the British Charitable Fund account – IBAN BE37 3101 8900 8428 – including the message ‘Donation’. Thank you!

    Find out more about the BCF via its website

    Case study #4. Several British citizens were victims in the Brussels terrorist attacks of 22 March 2016. The BCF mobilised help very quickly in conjunction with the British Embassy and Consulate. Four years on and the BCF continues to give much needed logistical and moral support to British people who were injured or lost a spouse in the attacks.

  • 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)

  • 20 May 2020 12:02 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    COVID-19 selected news snippets for Wednesday, 20 May 2020.

    The European Medicines Agency (EMA) may grant conditional approval this week for the use of antiviral drug Remdesivir in the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

    Healthcare workers' unions file strike notice in hospitals and nursing homes to protest against two royal decrees concerning the “requisition” of staff and the delegation of care tasks to unqualified personnel. “They are the wrong answer to a real problem, the real problem is years of austerity and destruction of social security.”

    The Belgian government is discussing the gradual opening of Belgium’s borders with the Netherlands, France, Germany and Luxembourg. However, the removal of border controls requires “the same approach to the disease on one side of the border as on the other side, and the level of infection needs to be under control,” according to Philippe Goffin, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Other aspects must now be looked at, such as visiting relatives who live abroad, shopping in neighbouring countries and the maintenance of real estate abroad.

    The government will not meet the May 20 deadline for the delivery of the filters to slide into fabric masks. Minister Koen Geens says. The bulk will still arrive at the municipalities on Friday. They then distribute it according to their own rhythm. Each citizen will receive a mask and two filters from the federal government.

    Minister of the Interior Pieter De Crem asks the provincial governors to call the mayors to order who have taken measures in recent weeks that are much more stringent than the provisions of the National Security Council.

    Prime Minister Wilmès wants to make a decision on second homeowners in the coming days. The coastal mayors support the appeal by the Flemish Minister of Tourism Zuhal Demir to lift the restrictions for second home owners 'as soon as possible'.

    More than half of Belgians who contracted COVID-19 were probably infected at work according to University of Antwerp's corona survey.

    People with a disability can return home or to a care provider for 1, 2 or more days from 25 May.

    The Trump effect: The number of incidents related to bleach "explodes" with Belgians putting it in their bathtubs. The Poison Control Centre received 1 000 more calls than last year during April.

    The excess mortality caused by the coronavirus epidemic has been greater in the Brussels Region, the University VUB said based on figures from the statistical office Statbel. In comparison with the last five years, 8 186 additional deaths were recorded in Belgium from March 16 to May 3.

    Towards a partial reopening of the catering sector on June 8? Horeca Magazine published a "white paper" containing various measures taken abroad to reopen the sector to the public. This document is based "on the guidelines already published in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria and other countries". According to Comeos, the sector is losing EUR 47 million a day.

    Villo!- the Brussels bike sharing service - offers six months free for all new registrations. New users will be able to choose between classic bikes and the electric option.

    More Belgians are booking holiday homes within the country. The regions in which reservations are the most significant are Liège, Luxembourg and Namur.

    STIB: a bus driver has tested positive for coronavirus.

    Ostend opts for beach reservation system. The coast has long been looking for a beach strategy to save the summer. Ostend will use a reservation system for the busiest stretches of beach, says mayor Bart Tommelein. The reservation will be free and will be tested in June.

    Descent of the Lesse in a kayak is allowed from 21 May. Only the small descent of 12 km will be authorised and only reserved for people living under the same roof.

    Sciensano statistics update of 20 May. 192 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Belgium over the past 24 hours of which 18 (9%) were in Brussels. To date, a total of 55 983 confirmed cases have been reported in Belgium with 5 691 (10%) cases located in Brussels.

    In the past 24 hours, only 58 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalised and 160 people left hospital. Between 15 March and 19 May, a total of 16 816 patients with COVID-19 have entered hospital and 14 847 people have left.

    42 new deaths from COVID-19 in Belgium have been reported in the past 24 hours of which 2 (5%) were in Brussels. To date, a total 9 150 deaths from the disease have been reported in Belgium of which 1 408 (15%) were in Brussels.

    Currently 313 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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