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Coronavirus in Belgium: The latest developments

05:17
Last update: Tuesday 15 June. Recent updates are in bold

What's the latest?

Saint-Josse will keep its municipal vaccination unit open until at least 13 July. So far 1,296 people have used the centre, which was set up to encourage people to get vaccinated locally, as the municipality had one of the lowest vaccine take-up rates in the Brussels region. Saint-Josse has now gone from having 19% of adults vaccinated in early May to 64% a month later.

Police have arrested two workers at a vaccination centre in Pepinster, who are suspected of corruption. The pair are accused of offering unvaccinated people a document proving they have been vaccinated, in return for a €200 payment. They face charges of forgery and computer fraud.

The Wallonia-Brussels Federation will carry out the final two of six test events later this month to assess how safely major cultural events can be staged. Almost 400 people will attend a screening at Palace cinema in Brussels, with masks but without keeping a minimum distance. And 750 people will watch a hip-hop concert at Le Manège in Mons, again without social distancing. "The first results of the test events are encouraging," said culture minister Bénédicte Linard. "Our goal remains unchanged: to produce scientific proof that access to culture can be safely maintained."

Catalonia and Thailand will be added to Belgium's red list of foreign countries from this Wednesday. Several regions of Germany, Croatia and Austria will go green at the same time. The non-EU countries on the green list remain unchanged: Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, Israel and South Korea.

Meanwhile, Belgium has gone from red to orange on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's coronavirus heatmap, after new cases of coronavirus fell below 150 per 100,000 inhabitants per fortnight.

From March to December 2020, prosecutors handled 126,466 cases of breaches of the coronavirus restrictions. This accounted for 20% of their workload, La Dernière Heure reports. So far, 57.4% of fines issued have been paid in full. Some 2,748 people have been granted a debt repayment plan to spread out the cost of their fine over an agreed time.

The 41st edition of the Brussels 20km has been confirmed for Sunday 12 September. Traditionally held on the last Sunday in May, the event was postponed last year - and again this year - due to the pandemic. The deadline for finishing the race will be extended from four to six hours, to allow more walkers to take part. Registrations open on 1 July.

The coronavirus consultative committee will meet again this Friday at 14.00. Rules on social contacts over the summer months will be among the items on the agenda.

Anyone born in 1990 or earlier can now book their coronavirus vaccination appointments via the Bru-Vax platform. The waiting list has been opened up to anyone aged 18-30. And from Monday, anyone in Brussels aged 65+ who has yet to be vaccinated can walk in to any vaccination centre without the need for an appointment.

Work inspectors carried out surprise spot checks at six hospitals around Belgium on Friday morning to check the working hours of assistant nurses. Their contracts specify a 38 to 48-hour week, with occasional peaks of up to 60 allowed. In reality, they can work up to 90 hours per week. A spokesperson said: "This is the first time in Belgium that the labour auditors have joined forces to simultaneously carry out an operation of such magnitude."

The federal crisis centre has issued some reminders on how to safely watch the Euro 2020 football tournament this summer. At a publicly organised event, up to 400 people are allowed outdoors (200 indoors) - but you should stay in groups of four and keep a 1.5-metre distance from other groups. If a venue serves food or drink, you must remain seated. You can watch matches in your living room with a maximum of four people, or in your garden with up to 50 people.

The lifting of Brussels' region-wide facemask requirement means each municipality is now free to set its own rules. In Brussels-City, masks are only compulsory on one street: Rue Neuve. A few other municipalities have so far published their list of applicable streets - Forest, Schaerbeek, Saint-Josse, Molenbeek, Koekelberg and Evere. Ganshoren and Anderlecht will not require masks on any streets. Other mayors contacted by Le Soir said they did not plan to publish a list, instead relying on residents' "common sense". Check your municipality's website to be certain.

The mayor of Etterbeek, Vincent De Wolf, wants the consultative committee to relax the rules on cafe closing times and outdoor gatherings until the Euro 2020 football tournament is over, amid fears that enforcing the rules could lead to violence. If a 21.30 match goes into extra time, or penalties, there is a risk that cafes will be required to switch their TVs off and tell customers to go home. "It is easy to imagine chaotic situations," De Wolf said, adding that the rule preventing gathering in groups of more than four after midnight would become difficult to enforce, and police risked being "quickly overwhelmed".

After months of wearing facemasks outdoors, interfederal spokesman Yves Van Laethem has confirmed what we suspected: there is no reason to wear one outside when there are few people around, unless you having a close face-to-face conversation with someone. Brussels' outdoor mask requirement is lifted this Wednesday. In enclosed places, such as public transport and shops, it remains compulsory.

The manhunt continues for a heavily armed man who had issued threats to Marc Van Ranst and was suspected of preparing an imminent attack. The virologist and his family were evacuated from their home in Limburg province and taken to a safe place. The man on the run is a 46-year-old soldier from Dilsem-Stokkem. He was on terror threat body Ocam's watch-list as a "potentially violent extremist" because of his far-right leanings. Several weapons were found in his vehicle, as well as a farewell note in which he reportedly criticises the work of virologists, politicians and the state in general. "Being against the health measures and coronavirus vaccines too often coincides with glorification of violence and brutal racism," he tweeted. "I'm not surprised that the threats come almost exclusively from that corner. Let one thing be clear: such threats do not impress me."

Read more about how Belgium's current coronavirus measures affect you, sector by sector, in our handy guide here, updated regularly.

Latest trends - Tuesday 15 June

Over the past seven days

  • Average daily infections: 801 (-42%)
  • Total infections: 1,076,579
  • Test positivity rate: 2.5% (-1.2%)
  • Infection rate: 0.79
  • People vaccinated (first dose): 5.6 million
  • Average daily deaths: 8.4 (-41%)
  • Total deaths: 25,093
  • Average daily hospital admissions: 49.0 (-29%)
  • In hospital: 717 (-26%)
  • In intensive care: 273 (-19%)

Is there an official Belgian website to get the latest information?

There are two, in fact - www.sciensano.be and www.info-coronavirus.be - plus a freephone helpline: 0800 14 689. You can be on hold for some time.

Written by Paul McNally