Jabbed: Part One

I had my first Pfizer jab yesterday and it all went remarkably smoothly — from turning up at the vaccination centre to sitting down in the post-jab waiting room, the whole process only took about ten minutes.

And, after the compulsory 15 minute wait, I went out for a drink, because of course I did.

And in five week’s time I have to do it all over again for the second jab.

Leaving Lockdown

One positive bit of news that I almost missed is that Belgium now has a plan for leaving lockdown. The plan is, as ever, dependent on vaccination schedules but we should see a re-opening of restaurants and cinemas on June 9th.

Restaurants are already able to open their terraces to groups of four or less who want to sit outside, but with the upcoming easing of restrictions, we will be able to sit indoors a well.

As for the cinemas reopening, it’s not a moment too soon:

Things are looking up.

Unpausing

The Easter Pause didn’t have as much impact as hoped but the Covid numbers have been deemed to be enough under control for the break to end on Monday, as planned. This means, among other things, that people can meet outside in groups of up to ten, we no longer need to make an appointment to go shopping and hairdressers and other non-medical contact professions can re-open with restrictions. I think I need a haircut again.

The big news, though, is that bars and restaurants with terraces can reopen on 8th May. There are a number of restrictions, but these amount to: go with a small group, or your household; stay seated; and be out by 10:00. Not all restaurants are going to be able to re-open because the tables have to be at least 1.5 metres apart, but I’m feeling optimistic.

May 8th is also when restrictions on youth club activities start to bee loosened, with a further relaxation (provisionally, as always) on 25th June. This should mean that the boys will be able to go on summer camp this year.

This, of course, all depends on people getting vaccinated so it’s good to see that the Belgian vaccination campaign is receiving something of a boost, with the delivery of nearly 900,000 coronavirus vaccines. This, along with the minimum age limit for the AstraZeneca vaccine being lowered will, hopefully, see the schedule speeding up a bit.

According to the Flemish Health Minister, Flanders is expecting to have half of it’s population vaccinated by the end of May, at which point things can start returning to normal.

Here’s hoping that we can all look forward to August.

Feels like 2020

With Coronavirus indicators continuing to rise, it came as a surprise to no-one that Belgium is going into lockdown again. This was announced yesterday and the new restrictions take effect on Monday.

The new and tightened rules all amount to reducing the numbers of contacts we have with each other, with aim of having a short, hard lockdown now in order to avoid longer lasting one later.

For us, the main impact is that schools are closed next week. Macsen has end-of-term exams, which are permitted but we will have to wait to hear from the school as to how these will be organised. As for William and Alexandre, we are also waiting to hear from their school whether any online learning will be organised or if they are going to have a three-week Easter break.

Non-essential journeys within Belgium are still allowed and the zoos remain open, so even with these new restrictions we’re not entirely trapped. Just as long as none of us tries to talk to anyone.

Great Minds

In the comments of yesterday’s post, I suggested (slightly flippantly) that if France and Germany didn’t want their AstraZeneca vaccines, they could be used to speed up the vaccination process in Belgium.

Great minds think alike.

Belgium has asked pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the surplus vaccine doses from the countries that have temporarily put the company’s jabs on hold over recent concerns about possible side effects.

Jabtastic!

On speaking too soon

While rambling yesterday about the Coronavirus, I suggested (not as directly as I thought I had) that the availability of vaccines provided a way out of this pandemic. They do, but there are still delays.

The biggest coronavirus vaccination centre in Belgium, Heysel, did not open its doors on Monday after the delay in deliveries of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines resulted in hundreds of appointments being cancelled.

AstraZeneca announced last week that it would only be able to deliver 500,000 coronavirus vaccines to Belgium, 200,000 fewer than promised, and Moderna said it would be delivering just 94,800 doses this week, leaving centres with reduced supply.

Then again, this is why any plans we make are very provisional.

Winter is here

We actually have a decent layer of snow at last. It started snowing on Saturday evening and continued pretty much all the way through Sunday. It’s eased off now, but we are still seeing the occasional flurries.

It’s days like this that I light the fire and appreciate the fact that I am still working from home.

The Haggis Crisis of 2021

As Brexit disasters go, this is quite a minor one but January 25th was Burns Night, a time to drink whisky, eat haggis and recite poetry. But with ongoing supply chain effects, there was no haggis to be found in Belgium, which led to something of an outcry.

More seriously, Stonemanor, which operates two British supermarkets in Belgium, has announced that it will have to close both premises this coming weekend due to depleted stock levels caused by import issues.

Stonemanor also operates a British Store online which is how I manage to keep fully stocked with essentials like Brown Sauce, Marmite and Lemon Curd. This site has, obviously, suspended orders for the weekend as well and are asking customers to check again after 10th February.

We’re not short of anything yet, but I will be checking in again next week.

I have found the site to be a very good one. They are quick and reliable and have an impressive range of foods on stock. Their announcement about suspending orders also notes:

All our orders are processed and dispatched from Belgium, so when this service resumes, there will be no additional shipping or Brexit surcharges to cover customs clearance.

If you are living in the EU and fancy a taste of something British (they also have a decent selection of Indian and Mexican foods) without any random customs costs, I would strongly recommend taking a look at what they have to offer.

Eased and extended

Since Belgium went into second lockdown at the end of October, I have been saying that I don’t expect the country to emerge this time around until 2021. Looking at what is being said, it’s quite clear that the government is very wary of a repeat of the summer where the country started to ease the restrictions and was hit by a massive spike in infections.

There was a review of the current measures on Friday, utterly unsurprisingly, the current lockdown measures have been extended until mid-January.

There is, however, some easing of the current measures with non-essential shops being allowed to open from Tuesday. Restrictions still apply and shoppers are expected to quickly pick up their non-essential essentials and leave. For us, this means that broken bootlaces can finally be replaced. Museums will also be allowed to re-open, and swimming pools, oddly enough. But not cinemas.

Hairdressers also remain closed. I have threatened to cut my own hair already, and am coming close to going through with it.

And, with Christmas fast approaching, the number of social contacts remains the same and absolutely will not change, according to Federal Health Minister, Frank Vandenbroucke:

The decision for Christmas period is final. We want to offer people clarity even if this isn’t pleasant. It is better to be certain where you are heading, and we absolutely wish to avoid giving people false promises.

We’ve already reconciled ourselves that we won’t be visiting elderly grandparents in either France or the UK this year, and I do see the sense of this. Disappointing as it is, you can’t negotiate with a virus and a seasonal lifting of restrictions is a bit silly, to say the least.

All of this does, of course, mean no Christmas film and no Wonder Woman this year.

And we’ll be having a quiet Christmas at home.

And I really need a haircut.