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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 -----------

  • 20 Aug 2020 6:23 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Following a meeting of the Belgian National Security Council (NSC) today (Thursday, August 20) Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has announced that the recent reinforced measures had achieved the intended results: stabilising the health situation and ‘immunising’ the start of the school year.

    The PM announced a number of decisions affecting daily life:

    • From 24 August shopping will again be allowed in pairs and the 30-minute time limit per store will be lifted.
    • The maximum allowed "social bubble" (close contacts with whom social distancing may not be respected) remains at five people per household until at least the end of September. Other social gatherings remain limited to 10 people.
    • The maximum audience limit at events will be increased again, from 100 to 200 indoors and from 200 to 400 outdoors. Up to 50 people will be allowed to attend a reception after a funeral.
    • And couples in a long-distance relationship will be allowed to travel abroad to see each other from 1 September.

    In the education sector Wilmès announced that all students will be able to return to school at the start of the new school year on 1 September, at all levels of education, on the basis of the "yellow code" established by the communes. The yellow code refers to a situation where the presence of the virus is still active although controlled. This system will allow a normal school week of 5 days, subject to compliance with certain health measures, such as the compulsory wearing of a mask for pupils over 12 years old and for teachers and the suspension of certain extracurricular activities in the secondary schools.

    In addition to this common regime, in communes where peaks of contamination are observed, a switch to an orange colour code will then be decided by the ministers of education. This colour code implies adjustments, such as a reduced number of course days for the second and third stages of secondary education. Parents, children and teachers will be informed directly by schools.

    At the higher education level, given the later start of the school year, consultations are still taking place to harmonise the rules that will apply on student campuses.

    "The virus is still spreading," said prime minister Sophie Wilmès. "We know that no measure alone can eliminate the virus - we need a vaccine. The virus will continue to circulate, so we need to learn to live with it."

    Wilmès stated that the estimated coronavirus infection rate in Belgium is currently 0.9, meaning the virus is in decline, but added: "We must keep up our efforts. Returning to normal today is not possible.”

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 31 Jul 2020 10:29 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The UK government has launched a public information campaign across Europe to help UK nationals prepare for the end of the UK's transition period on December 31.

    British nationals residing in Belgium will receive information on the specific measures they must take to maintain their rights but also to access services in Belgium, in particular regarding residence, healthcare, driving licenses and passports.

    The campaign will use multiple channels - including Facebook, digital media and newspaper advertising - urging those affected to take the necessary steps to protect their rights so that they can continue to live, work and travel in Europe after the transition period.

    In addition to this major information campaign, the British Embassy in Belgium is already working with several community groups, including the BBCA, but also directly with British nationals to inform and reassure them.

    This includes providing information and support through public briefings and question-and-answer sessions attended by ambassadors and consular experts.

    British Ambassador to Belgium Martin Shearman said:

    “Protecting the rights of UK nationals is a top priority for us. This is why we have counselled and reassured UK nationals, to make sure they have all the information they need and that they have the certainty of their rights.

    “Brits in Belgium should consult our 'Living in Belgium' guides where they can learn the steps to follow and get important information on residency, healthcare, passports and driving licenses in Belgium. "

    The UK government also announced last year up to £ 3 million in grants for charities and other voluntary organizations to provide practical support to help vulnerable UK nationals who may find it difficult to complete applications for residence or registration - for example, people with mobility difficulties, disabled people or even the elderly. These groups may need additional assistance in completing the paperwork for the end of the transition period.

    This additional assistance will build on the support that British Embassies have already provided since November 2017 with more than 775 events with British nationals.

    The next event in Belgium is a Facebook Q&A session on Wednesday 5 August from 17h00 – see details below.

  • 27 Jul 2020 4:18 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Following a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has today (27 July) confirmed that from 29 July, for at least four weeks, the ‘social bubble’ in Belgium will be reduced from 15 to five people. This five-person limit is per household - not per person. And the bubble must be the same five people for the whole four-week period.

    For private events, such as family get-togethers and weddings, the limit is now 10 people. For organised events, the maximum audience has been halved with the limit at 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors with the wearing of face masks compulsory.

    In addition, and for the same period, you must shop alone again, unless accompanying children or with a person in need. The maximum time allowed in any shop returns to 30 minutes. And, where possible, working from home is strongly encouraged.

    Your contact details should also be collected if you visit a sports clubs, the hairdressers, beauty salons etc. The full list of applicable venues will be published shortly.

    Finally to avoid crowding in parts of the country, the offer to grant free train travel to citizens will be postponed until September.

    This tightening of coronavirus measures follows a recent 71% surge in new infections in Belgium. PM Wilmès said the new restrictions were "very strong", but the alternative would be a renewal of the full lockdown.

    Local authorities are also urged to introduce more stringent local measures to combat virus 'hotspots. This is currently the case in the province of Antwerp where the local authorities have imposed a curfew from 23h30 to 6h00, teleworking is now mandatory, limitations to sporting activities apply, and restaurant and bars’ closing time has been brought forward. Even stricter rules apply within the city of Antwerp and its immediate surrounding municipalities where all events are prohibited and sport clubs are closed. People from outside the province are asked not to come to Antwerp.

    You can find the press release (in French) with full details here.

    Sciensano statistics updates. The latest update to the COVID-19 epidemiological situation in Belgium (in English) can be found here.

    Useful Links

    Federal Government COVID-19 information

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

  • 24 Jul 2020 2:42 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    As part of measures to contain COVID-19 and be able to tack and trace potential infection you may need to fill in a new form before or upon arrival back in Belgium from your holidays. All passengers aged 16 or older must fill in the form.

    The 'Belgium_PassengerLocatorForm' must be completed by all passengers arriving in Belgium following a stay outside the Schengen Area, or, in a high-risk area as defined by the Belgian authorities and located inside the EU+ area. The UK is within the 'EU+' area.

    Details of the current list of high risk/ red areas both for travel to and from Belgium within the EU+ area can be found here. In the UK only Leicester is a defined high risk area at the time of writing, but other parts of the UK are deemed 'orange' at the moment (Midlands, North East & Yorkshire, North West and Northern Ireland).

    COVID testing and a 14 day quarantine are obligatory if returning from a 'red' zone and recommended if travelling from an orange zone.

    Bon voyage!

  • 23 Jul 2020 2:49 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Today, Thursday 23 July, the Belgian National Security Council has agreed to postpone Phase 5 of COVID-19 deconfinement due to a deterioration in the general trends with respect to the virus in Belgium.

    "From the start, we have been told that the phases would correlate with the figures for the pandemic," warned Sophie Wilmès at a press conference following the Council meeting. She also outlined some additional measures that will be put in place across the country.

    There will be no increase in the maximum number of people allowed for receptions and fairs and exhibitions may not always allowed.

    The resumption of ‘normal’ activities is still scheduled for September 1, but will be subject to a very strict health protocol and the compulsory wearing of face masks.

    Face masks – new rules

    From this Saturday, July 25, the wearing of face masks will be mandatory in all markets, flea markets, fairgrounds, in shopping streets and any place with large amounts of people, whether a private or public domain.

    Each commune will define precisely the areas where facemask will be mandatory.

    Wearing a facemask will also be compulsory in public buildings and in catering establishments, except when diners are seated at the table.

    In all other cases, wearing a mask is always strongly recommended, especially when there are people and when it is difficult to respect safe distancing.

    The closing time for night shops will now be 22h00 to avoid gatherings in public areas.

    Local lockdown

    Reconfinement at the local level will now be the responsibility of mayors at commune level. They can intervene within the framework of the decisions of the National Security Council, but they have the flexibility to act locally if there is a deterioration in the health situation in their commune.

    In some cases, local containment may be possible. The mayors will have to contact the district governors and the regional authorities so that the measures are applied in a consistent manner.

    Where did you eat?

    Everyone visiting a bar or restaurant must complete a form indicating their email address or telephone number, which will be used to contact them in the event of potential contamination.

    “After 15 days, without contamination, this information will be destroyed. And it will not be used for purposes other than those related to the coronavirus," stated the Prime Minister.

    Social bubble

    Each person’s social bubble remains at 15 people per week – not per day. "If everyone strictly respects the rule, we should not touch this bubble to which we hold so much," said Sophie Wilmès. However, to maintain this situation "will depend on the behaviour of each and every one of us."

    Medical situation

    The reason for these new measures stems from a 89% increase in COVID19 cases compared to last week. The number of Covid-19 infections has been accelerating for several days. Between 12 July and 18 July 18, there were an average of 184.3 new cases detected per day. Hospital admissions are also on an upward trend.

    You can watch the 23 July press conference below or read the press release (in French) here.

  • 20 Jul 2020 3:09 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The BBCA Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place virtually via Teams on Wednesday 15 July 2020. The meeting started at 18h30.

    Attendees at the meeting were H.E. Martin Shearman - British Ambassador to Belgium, Glenn Vaughan - Chairman BBCA, Glynis Whiting, Steve Robinson, Nigel Cameron, Anna Cameron, Lilian Eilers - Chair of British & Commonwealth Women’s Club, Tim Reynolds, Amanda Newell, Chris Dalton, Christopher Thubron, Malcolm Johnson, Simon Pascoe, Tracie Ryan, Charles White, and Nick Compton.

    Apologies for Absence were received from Clive Hinchcliffe, Bernard Mills - Chairman/President Brussels Madrigal Singers, Muriel Lowe, Eileen Chiles. Alan Davis, Léon RUBIN, Liz Taylor, Susannah Haan, and Nikki Hayes.

    Address from the Ambassador

    As part of the proceedings HE Ambassador Martin Shearman looked back over the year. He explained that the Embassy had been very busy preparing for BREXIT at the end of January and maintaining the long relationship between Belgium and UK. He cited the event for the British Community in the Grand Place hosted by the Mayor of Brussels at the end of January as one illustration of the warmth of bilateral ties. The relations between UK and Belgium go back through history as the commemorations last autumn of 75 years since the liberation of Belgium had demonstrated. He thanked the BBCA for their work to inform British residents of their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.

    Looking ahead, the future relationship between UK and Belgium, preparing for the end of the transition period and supporting British business and residents occupy much time for the Embassy. He noted as encouraging signs as some big investments in UK by Belgian companies took place this year. Bilateral cooperation on foreign and security policy also remains important, with both countries on the UN Security Council and re-establishment of a resident Defence Attaché in the Embassy.

    Regarding the UK’s departure from the EU, the Ambassador made clear that the transition period will happen at the end of the year. The UK Govt set out its approach in February to negotiations with the EU on the future relationship. It published proposals in May for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and other agreements on fisheries, law enforcement cooperation etc. These draw heavily on existing precedent. UK will no longer operate under the rules of the Court of Justice after the end of the transition period. Negotiations were currently ongoing, and it remained the UK Government’s objective to secure agreement on an FTA, though there were still significant issues to resolve.

    The Embassy is preparing for 1st of January. There are many points to make clear including border issues with the ports to ensure mutual understanding of procedures as well as helping British residents in Belgium transition to their new status and obtaining new ID cards. The Belgian authorities have said that all registered British residents will receive a letter before the end of the year on obtaining their new residency card under the Withdrawal Agreement. The Embassy is pressing for early clarity on the exact procedure.

    The Ambassador noted the ongoing challenge of Covid-19 to public health and the economic impact.

    The Ambassador concluded by welcoming the good cooperation between the BBCA and the Embassy and thanking the BBCA for its work to support UK residents in Belgium. He looked forward to further cooperation.

    Chairman’s Report 

    Glenn Vaughan explained that the BBCA had had a very busy year in 2019. There were three BREXIT briefings hosted during the year which over 1200 people registered and of which around 50% attended, many joining this type of event for the first time.

    The Summer Garden Party held at the Royal Brussels Cricket Club was a great success and he thanked the club, the charities and volunteers who ensured the day was a great success.

    The BBCA Christmas Party was last year held at the Chatelain Hotel. Glenn thanked Tony and Angela Lowe who performed on the night as well as the British School Parents Choir for their lively Christmas songs. Glenn thanked the hotel and the BBCA social events team – Amanda Newell, Nikki Hayes and Tracie Ryan for their great organization.

    Through these events the BBCA succeeded to raise 4,540 euros which was given to the charities close to the BBCA, namely the British Charitable Fund, the Royal British Legion, the Wednesday Club and the Community Help Service.

    Glenn concluded by expressing his thanks to Alison Rose, ex British Ambassador to Belgium who returned to the UK last year, for her great support for the organization and many associations linked to it on behalf of the British Community.

    This year the BBCA successfully hosted one BREXIT briefing which was attended by 150 people before COVID put everyone under lock down. Sadly, the Summer Party was cancelled, and these cancellations will have a negative impact on the BBCA’s ability to raise funds for the deserving charities in this hour of need.

    Glenn concluded by emphasizing the BBCA’s gratitude to the Ambassador, our Patrons especially the Fry Group, ING, the British School of Brussels and Eurocity for all their support and to all the sponsors and volunteers who do great work giving their time, energy and care for the organization and the community.


    Christopher Thubron presented the accounts for the year ended 31 December 2019. The Net Worth of the BBCA was €16,069 compared with €15,134 at the end of 2018 increased by the surplus for the year of €935. The main component was the bank balance of €17,047 less outstanding debts of c.€1,000.

    Income from subscriptions was stable at €4,950 and from events increased to €1,604 compared with €486. Expenses increased by a little over €500 to €1,079, due mainly to increased expenditure on development of the website leaving a excess of Income over Expenditure of €5,475 of which €4,540 was donated equally to the four associated BBCA charities leaving a surplus to carry forward of €935. 

    You can access the full minutes of the meeting here.  

  • 8 Jul 2020 2:30 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The Belgian Foreign ministry has issued a list of 'orange' countries, including the UK, for which a period of 14 days quarantine and taking a coronavirus test is recommended following a visit. The current orange list covers Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

    Travel to the orange zones is strongly discouraged, but not banned. Travellers returning from one of the listed countries are strongly advised to take a coronavirus test, a second test after nine days, and self-isolate for 14 days.

    The foreign ministry may also apply a 'red' zone label to specific cities, districts or regions within a country if a severe COVID-19 outbreak occurs. Four whole countries are currently classified 'red': Ireland, Finland, Malta and Norway.

    Travel to these red zones from Belgium is forbidden. If you return to Belgium from a red zone, you will have to take two coronavirus tests - on arrival and nine days later - and self-isolate for 14 days.

    Update. In Flanders, fines of up to EUR 4 000 euros and even a prison sentence of up to six months may be applied if people do not comply with the new travel rules. This is the competency of the regions and might vary in other parts of the country.

    In other travel news, SNCB will be launching an app in September that will show passengers how busy a train is before they board. And police have warned that, from this week, anyone caught not wearing a mask on SNCB trains and in stations will be fined €250 rather than a verbal caution. Federal police intend to reinforce spot checks between now and September on platforms and in trains.

  • 29 Jun 2020 9:22 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)
    From the weekend the long awaited DeLijn 'TramBus' service - Line 820 - has launched. The service runs from UZ Brussel hospital in Jette to Zaventem airport via Heysel, Koningslo, Vilvoorde town centre, Machelen and Diegem.

    The 24-metre-long vehicles uses hybrid fuel cell technology, can carry up to 137 passengers and can use tram lines while having the flexibility of a bus elsewhere. More information here.

    Exchange your mag stripe tickets

    It is possible to exchange your valid/ unused magnetic cards for SMS or electronic card tickets either online (from 1 July) or a DeLijn shop or point of sale.

  • 26 Jun 2020 5:58 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    During 2020, BBCA member the British & Commonwealth Women's Club (BCWCB), is supporting two fantastic charities:

    • Parkinson’s Association Belgium who help patients and their families in all aspects of this illness.
    • Giraffe Children’s Charity that provides education, from primary through to college or university, for very deprived children in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya helping them to become productive citizens. 

    Would you like to help raise funds for these charities? This year the BCWCB is organising sponsored walks along “La Promenade Verte” – the Green Walk – encircling Brussels in seven stages and spaced out over several weeks in July and early September. For more information contact the BCWCB Chairperson.

    You can find more information on the full walk here including detailed descriptions of the route. A complete book with maps is also available free of charge on request from Brussels Environnement.

    If you would like to support these charities, you can sponsor the walkers by simply making a donation to the dedicated BCWCB Club account. Thank you! We will publish the results of the fundraising later this year.

    Payment by bank transfer to: IBAN: BE04 2100 1552 7631 BIC: GEBABEBB – Mention: CHARITY WALK DONATION (very important to mention this).

  • 24 Jun 2020 6:32 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    On 24 June 2020 the Belgian National Security Council has agreed to move into phase 4 of the deconfinement from 1 July on the basis of the agreement of the COVID-19 expert group and the continuing good evolution of the epidemiological situation.

    A translation of the press release from the Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmès is reproduced below.

    The six golden rules remain in effect, namely:

    • Respect for hygiene rules.
    • Favouring outdoor activities.
    • Taking extra precautions for those at risk.
    • Respect for safety distances.
    • The extended bubble rule which increases from 10 to 15 different people per week in addition to the home. As a reminder, this right is individual.
    • Group activities cannot exceed 15 people, children included. This applies to all unsupervised meetings, regardless of whether they take place at home or outside the home.

    It will now be possible to open under certain conditions:

    • Swimming pools and wellness centres.
    • Amusement parks and indoor playgrounds.
    • Theatres and cinemas.
    • Casinos and game rooms.
    • Congress halls.
    • Reception and party rooms with a maximum of 50 people.

    Among the conditions is the application of protocols. In addition, the general rules which are already in force for other activities will apply such as the compulsory respect of safety distances, the establishment of time slots and crowd management, the cleaning of infrastructure and the wearing of face masks, which remains highly recommended.

    Other activities cannot restart at this stage:

    • Nightlife activities such as nightclubs.
    • Mass events.

    However, it will be possible to organise activities from 1 July in the presence of an audience, under certain conditions which are set out in protocols.

    For regular events organized in permanent structures such as theatres, cinemas, galleries, congress halls, protocols will therefore be drawn up with the competent ministers and members of the expert group.

    For one-off events in a public space, an online tool will be available on 1 July and will serve as a reference for local authorities in granting permits for these events. Specific rules will also have to be applied.

    For all these events, there is a capacity limit set at:

    • 200 people indoors.
    • 400 people outside.

    This capacity limit will be reassessed in August to 400 people indoors and 800 outdoors maximum, if the health situation allows. An exception may be requested for permanent infrastructure with a seated public that exceeds this limit, but is able to respect health rules.

    The maximum number of outdoor participants will also apply to events. These must always be subject to an authorisation request from the local authorities. In any case, they must always be static and take place in a place where the safety distances can be respected.

    In parallel, in addition to the resumption of these activities, certain protocols will be relaxed from July 1:

    The possibility to go to the store with people from your contact bubble and without time limit. The safety distance always applies.

    Removal of the limit on the number of stalls for markets, but health protocols and regulations should continue to apply.

    Regarding the approaching National Day, the traditional military and civil parade will now take another form to comply with health regulations. Different artistic performances in symbolic places will highlight the country and its artists and will be broadcast on television. A detailed communication on the event(s) will be made later.

    About the longer-term perspectives, the start of the school year is already in full preparation. The education ministers, in collaboration with the expert group, have put in place a colour-coded system that indicates how schools should organise themselves depending on the health situation. Education ministers will explain the plan in more detail at a press conference.

    The full press release (in French) can be found here.

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