Brussels goes into semi-lockdown, Flanders extends school holiday

Summary

As hospital admissions nearly double, the regions announce stricter measures to control the spread of Covid-19

Second worst rate in Europe

A flurry of announcements over the weekend see extra efforts being made to control the spread of the coronavirus. Brussels has shut down all cultural venues, while Flanders has decided to extend the November school holiday by half a week.

The number of people admitted to hospital with complications from Covid-19 is rising exponentially, with an average 433 new patients a day over the last seven days. That’s up 85% of the previous seven day period.

The number of people currently in hospital is 4,401 – nearly double the previous week – with 708 of them needing intensive care. In terms of infection rates, Belgium is at 1,202 per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in Europe outside of the Czech Republic. At this point, nearly one in five people who are tested come back positive.

Quasi-lockdown

At the weekend, the Brussels region shut all cultural venues, including concert halls, theatres, cinemas and museums. This is in addition to restaurants and bars, which are already closed nation-wide.

The federal curfew is midnight to 5.00, but Brussels will now enforce a 22.00 to 6.00 curfew. Facemasks are now required everywhere in the region, inside and outside. All shops must close by 20.00 except those offer take-away meals, which may stay open until 22.00.

All amateur sports are cancelled, and all sport facilities are closed. Children younger than 12 may continue with training.

Funerals are limited to 15 guests, and wedding are limited to the couple, the officiant and the witnesses. While schools are open, trips outside school are banned.

We can help ensure that schools remain open until the Christmas holiday with an extra two days now

- Education minister Ben Weyts

Wallonia has also increased restrictions but has not shut cultural venues. Flanders is doing better than Brussels and Wallonia in terms of the infection rate and so has not taken additional measures yet. The measures announced at the end of last week remain for the time being.

Flanders has taken the step of extending the autumn school holiday to 11 November. The week-long autumn holiday was originally scheduled from 2-6 November, but will now include the following Monday and Tuesday. As Wednesday, 11 November, is a public holiday, pupils will head back to school on Thursday, 12 November.

The measure applies to schools in Flanders as well as Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels. Both Brussels and Wallonia made the same decision earlier this month, meaning that all schools will be closed during the same period.

“I apologise to the parents, who will now have to secure child care for 9 and 10 November,” said Flemish education minister Ben Weyts. “We are making an effort in order to ensure that following the autumn holiday, schools will be able to remain open until the winter break.”

Weyts made the decision in co-operation with school networks and virologists, he said. “According to the experts, even a limited extension now can have a significant societal impact. If we can help ensure that schools remain open until the Christmas holiday with an extra two days now, we have to take advantage of that.”

Current federal coronavirus measures can be found on the government’s dedicated website. Additional measures in Flanders can be found here, and in Brussels can be found here. Be aware that the English section of the Brussels site is much less up to date than the information in Dutch and French.

Photo ©Thierry Roge/BELGA