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Coronavirus in Belgium: The latest developments

11:03 05/06/2020
Last update: Friday 5 June. Recent updates are in bold

What's the latest?

Belgium has recorded no "excess mortality" since 11 May - meaning 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%, meaning almost twice as many people died in that week than would normally be expected.

Brussels Airport has set out its plans for the summer, with 100 destinations available. All passengers entering the airport must wear a mask and will have their temperature checked. Brussels Airlights flights will start picking up from 15 June.Meanwhile, TUI intends to resume activity from 20 June, starting with flights to Dubrovnik and Faro, with more destinations to be added from July. Ryanair will resume operations with 90 routes from Charleroi and Zaventem. Brussels Airport is forecasting a net loss of €200 million this year, and does not expect to make a full recovery until 2023. There was a 99% drop in passenger numbers during the coronavirus shutdown.

With the number of new confirmed cases in decline, the workload for Brussels' contact tracers is easing. In the first fortnight, the call centre contacted 2,400 people to inform them that they had been in contact with an infected person. Last week, they only had 211 people to contact by phone - and 32 face-to-face visits.

According to a new study by UC Louvain, half of people in Belgium have put off some form of medical treatment during the coronavirus crisis. The most common were dental care, physiotherapy, speech therapy and visits to GPs. The medical sector is likely to feel the strain from these delayed appointments in the coming months. The report's authors wrote: "We focused on treating people who were in dire need and needed to be saved. But other people who had a regular need for care could not be seen. And their health has deteriorated as a result. We experienced a first wave linked to the coronavirus - it is possible that we have a second wave in our care system which is going to be linked to all these chronic health problems which were not managed in time and which have grown."

Belgium is facing a bicycle shortage - and a spare parts shortage - as more of us take up cycling to get around post-shutdown. Bike shops have reported a surge in trade since they were allowed to reopen on 11 May. With factories shut down in March and April, not enough new bikes are coming off the production line. Second-hand women's bikes are also hard to come by. One Decathlon employee told RTBF: "We've run out city bikes, almost everything except bikes for small children. There are still some mountain bikes priced over €850." He said stocks should be replenished by early July.

The Brussels region will support a range of initiatives over the summer to open up public spaces for small-scale cultural events and recreational activities. The regional agency Perspective.brussels is drawing up an inventory of possible outdoor spaces that could accommodate a pop-up concept - whether's that an open-air arts festival, al-fresco eating and drinking or a new children's play area. Visit.brussels will help match each public space with a potential organiser. The project is named "Brussels on Holiday" and aims to make the city more pleasant for residents who will not be going elsewhere on holiday this year.

Environmental activists blocked a crossroads in the Bois de la Cambre on Thursday to protest against the wood's reopening to traffic. Organisers said: "During the shutdown, the Bois de la Cambre had become a green and pleasant place where families, walkers and cyclists could enjoy the fresh air in peace without being disturbed by traffic, which we think is precious because there is a clear lack of green spaces in Brussels. It should not be forgotten that many Brussels residents do not have a garden."

What are the trends?

Over the past 24 hours

  • Newly confirmed cases: 140
  • Hospitalised: 32
  • Left hospital: 64
  • Deaths: 29 (13 in hospitals, 15 in care homes)

Totals since outbreak began

  • Known cases: 58,907
  • In hospital: 700 (-33)
  • In intensive care: 137 (-8)
  • Deaths: 9,566 (+29)

Other developments in the past week

Belgium has confirmed the next phase in the easing of its coronavirus rules. From Monday 8 June, cafes, bars and restaurants can reopen, social contact bubbles can be extended to 10 people per individual, gyms can reopen and outings within Belgium are allowed. Travel within the Schengen area will be allowed from 15 June. Read all the details here...

A giant 1,000m² fresco, visible only from above, has been painted on the roofs of the old barracks on the corner of Boulevard Général Jacques and Avenue de la Couronne in Ixelles. Painted by the Tavu & Louves collective, it reads: "Watch your step" and is a message to society to reflect on how we should change our habits in a post-coronavirus world.

1 June brought a number of small changes in Belgium. Wallonia's compensation scheme for freelancers and businesses whose economic activity was significantly impacted by the coronavirus shutdown can file their request for a €2,500 grant from today. The business must have its official address in Wallonia and have put the majority of its staff on temporary unemployment due to force majeure. Meanwhile, public inquiries into planning permission requests can resume in the Brussels region. Anyone can book an appointment to see the details of a dossier in their town hall, with the compulsory wearing of a mask. Public inquiries that were put on hold on 16 March can resume, for however many days were left.

Prince Joachim of Belgium has tested positive for coronavirus in Spain, with mild symptoms, days after attending a party with 27 people at a villa. Joachim is King Philippe's nephew, the son of Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz. The 28-year-old had flown to Spain on a business trip as part of an internship he is currently doing, the royal palace confirmed. Spanish police have launched an investigation into the party. Those found to have breached the lockdown rules could be fined up to €10,000.

A 106-year-old woman in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert has become Belgium's oldest resident to make a full recovery from coronavirus. Marie-Henriette Dejonghe tested positive a month ago and has been self-isolating in her room at Les Azalées retirement home. Her symptoms were relatively mild and she did not require hospitalisation. The head nurse at her retirement home told RTBF: "This is a wonderful message of hope. This is proof that you can be affected by the covid and recover from it. Other residents were not so lucky."

Three police officers guarding the Belgium-Netherlands border in Wuustwezel, Antwerp province, were reportedly caught drinking wine and enjoying a barbecue on Sunday. According to Het Nieuwsblad, a driver crossing the border saw the barbecue and wine bottles and called police, who came to the scene and took breathalyser tests from each of the officers, which all came back positive. They were senior officers, with more than 20 years' experience, who had been seconded from the aviation police. One of the officers reportedly acted aggressively towards the police who attended the scene. An internal disciplinary investigation has been launched.

A group of about 30 people are attempting to sue the Belgian state and interior minister Pieter De Crem, claiming the coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions are contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. They demand that the measures be immediately lifted, Het Nieuwsblad reports, and are demanding a symbolic €1 in damages. Their lawyer, Michael Verstraeten, said Belgium's measures to limit the spread of the virus had been copied from those in China and were an attack on "people's rights and freedoms". The interior ministry said it was not yet aware of the lawsuit and would be happy to defend its actions.

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.

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