Corona in brief: Conflicting measures, ongoing research and plight of pupils


The federal government is cracking down on municipalities passing their own corona crisis regulations

Maverick mayors

Federal interior minister Pieter De Crem (CD&V) is taking action against mayors and provincial governors who are imposing their own local rules on issues such as wearing facemasks, events and care home visits.

Mayors who have passed local decrees that conflict with the recommendations of Belgium’s National Security Council will have until 22 May to withdraw the measures. Some municipalities, for instance, such as Brakel, Steenokkerzeel and Kampenhout, have passed a decree banning all public events until the middle or end of July, whereas the federal guidelines is to prohibit events only until 30 June, for now.

Some Brussels municipalities, meanwhile, have announced that residents are required to wear facemasks in certain streets and in shops, while the federal government’s guidelines require masks only public transport and in schools. “A mayor cannot impose the wearing of a mask,” De Crem wrote in a letter to governors.

Most of the masks and filters ordered by the federal government for the public are due to arrive at town halls this week. Each municipality will be responsible for organising their distribution. Each resident is entitled to one mask and two filters.

Corona research

According to ongoing research by Antwerp University, more than half of people who have had the coronavirus believe they caught it at work. A quarter think they got it from a family member at home, and 10% say in a shop. Many of those who believe they were infected in their workplaces are healthcare workers.

The university’s Corona Study goes live every Tuesday. Respondents are asked to fill it in every week and can choose among four languages.

Over at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), meanwhile, the Everyday Life study has shown that quarantine has been much more stressful for women then for men. That’s because women have been more responsible for cooking, housework and monitoring their children’s schoolwork.

“Women seem to be doing much more than men to manage the combination of different areas of life at home,” says VUB sociologist Theun Pieter van Tienoven. “The lockdown therefore reinforces gender inequality in relative terms.”

The Everyday Life study is recording how the coronavirus crisis affects daily life in the absence of time structures, routines, social contacts and the separation of work, school and family. The study is ongoing, and VUB invites more people to participate. Participants can choose among English, Dutch or French.

‘Send little kids back to school,’ say paediatricians

A group of 269 Belgian paediatricians have penned a joint letter arguing that young children should be allowed to go back to school. “There is no valid medical reason for us to exclude children from the community any longer,” they wrote in the open letter. “A child must be able to evolve, interact and play normally.”

In addition to providing an education and social activities, the letter continues, “it makes it possible to detect the signs of physical and psychological suffering of certain children. Staying at home widens inequalities with an increased risk of neglect, mistreatment and lack of supervision, which can result in an increase in domestic accidents. We are also seeing more sleep disorders and anxiety that can be harmful for the child and his or her development.”

Photos, from top: ©Dirk Waem/BELGA; ©Morsa Images/Getty Images