The Belgian shutdown has started

You can tell things are getting bad when Belgium gets a government. This is, of course, only a temporary government — negotiations are still ongoing for the new federal government — but prime minister, Sophie Wilmès now has powers for six months to take measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic without requiring parliamentary approval.

The first thing this government did was to declare a declare a nation-wide shutdown as of noon today. Until 5th April, we are all expected to stay at home except for essential reasons, such as food shopping, or outdoor physical activities which can only be done with people living in the same house.

They are trying to avoid calling this a lockdown for fear of negative connotations. But that’s what this is.

Compared to yesterday, we’re not that much affected. I’m already working from home and Eve is still able to take the boys out in the afternoon in order to prevent us all going stir crazy. Because I am not walking to work at present, I have taken to taking a walk around town before I start working and again when I have finished. This is still allowed as long as I don’t talk to anyone.

In slightly more positive news, a citizens’ initiative has been launched aiming to bring together isolated people with volunteers available to gather and deliver essential shopping. The idea from Covid Solidarity is to make shopping list templates for printing out available to people who find themselves isolated.

Once completed, the list may be placed in a visible position in front of one’s house so that a neighbour can pick it up and set about making the necessary purchases.

The shopping is then deposited without physical contact, and reimbursement for purchases made is handled directly by the person lending assistance and the person being assisted, according to the procedure detailed on the site.

And two Dutch universities are looking into whether a vaccine for tuberculosis can be used to boost immune systems which may mean fewer and less severe infections.

15 thoughts on “The Belgian shutdown has started

    1. Very much so.

      We’re quite lucky in that we have quite a nice walk not far from us, so as long as the kids can burn off some energy in the afternoons we should be okay. We seem to have slipped into a pattern of letting them have their tablets in the morning and then making them do something after lunch.

      And we have a fair old stack of DVDs to catch up on 😉

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      1. Cooking over face-time sounds… interesting O_o

        That said, my 12 year old cooked dinner for us all yesterday and it was really good. I’m more than happy to let him do that again 😉

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  1. Apparently we can exercise (walk, jog) in the outdoors but only locally; not to drive somewhere to walk. The reduced traffic on my local road is amazing!

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    1. We’re quite lucky in that we do have a pretty decent walk very local to us, although the usual hot chocolate at the end of the walk is obviously no longer available. And I will continue to take a walk immediately before I start working and, again, after I finish — otherwise I won’t move at all all day.

      I haven’t had a chance to look outside yet, but I can imagine the traffic will be largely gone. That said, the car park outside the local supermarket is packed — people are having to queue to get their panic buying done.

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  2. I’m still confused as to how law enforcement will be able to verify whether you are outside with someone who you live with. Since lockdown, in ambiguous term, has only been announced for us today, I’m cautious as to how effective it’ll be. Some form of proof of address to confirm it? Just recently, there was a picture circulating on twitter of Victoria park being populated by shoppers which was infuriating, I live in the area, and now I’m even more reluctant to even step out of the house.

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    1. In Belgium, we have had a lot of information from the federal government explaining exactly what is and is not allowed and I think they are largely relying on people to show a bit of sense about this. That said, the police were blocking access to coastal towns last weekend and turning back anyone who didn’t have a good reason to be there.

      As for enforcement, I think a lot of it will fall on obvious violations. A couple or an adult with several children can be ignored, whereas half a dozen teenagers probably shouldn’t be hanging out together.

      At the end of the day, I think most people are capable of being reasonably sensible about this. There will always be idiots around but they are (hopefully) in the minority.

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      1. That’s the greatest difficulty, getting people to listen and take this seriously. I was shocked to hear how many people were going to beaches and attending large gatherings. It looks like people have finally started to take the pandemic a lot more seriously. I can’t imagine how it would be like to go back to “normal”, but that’s an existential dread for another day.

        Hm. It depends, really, I still think that, where we see an adult with several children, it’ll be for grocery runs, and I guess that much can’t be avoided for single parents. What are your thoughts on how long the pandemic will last?

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      2. In the first weekend of lockdown here, the police put roadblocks around the seaside towns and were turning back anyone who tried to go through without a valid reason. And we’ve had plenty of doctors pointing out that this is a pandemic, not a holiday.

        Things seem quite settled now, though, and most people seem to be adjusting well enough. Going outside for exercise is still encouraged, as long as you only go with people from your own household or just one friend.

        As for how long it will last, it will probably vary from country to country. As far as Belgium is concerned, I have seen a couple of experts and calling for a phased relaxation on the lockdown rules.

        The government are reviewing the situation on April 19th and will decide then whether extend or amend the lockdown. Things may start to get a bit easier in May, but I don’t think we will be back to fully normal before June.

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      3. Ah gosh, I wish we had law enforcement like yours. British people… are so selfish, and I can see a few people in my community following their example.

        I have been limiting my walks because of how loosely some people in my area have been following social distancing procedures.

        It looks like Belgium is much better run than the U.K., I can imagine Belgians perceiving us Brits as absolute fools. Though, until a vaccine is developed, I don’t imagine that we can truly be safe, even with social distancing measures, but, then, who’s to say people won’t object to vaccinations?

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      4. Certainly, as far as the virus is concerned, Belgium does seem to be handling things pretty well. So much so that we are starting to come out of it. Very slowly, and very carefully.

        It’s going to be a long time before we’re back to anything like normal but we are — at least — starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

        As for people who object to vaccines, their combination of selfishness and stupidity is something I will never understand.

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      5. That’s brilliant! I agree, social distancing will still have to be enforced for a long time, and I’m not aware that we’re any closer to developing a vaccine, but I’m fairly out of the loop because it’s all very depressing. I do really admire the way New Zealand have handled the pandemic as well.

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      6. New Zealand seem to have managed amazingly well in this pandemic. I think it goes to show just how effective quick and decisive action can be.

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