Belgium

  1. Belgium surge likened to tsunami

    Gavin Lee

    BBC Europe reporter

    Brussels - masked pedestrians, Sept 2020
    Image caption: Brussels: Belgium was already hit hard in the first wave in spring

    "We are close to a tsunami": that was the stark warning on the gravity of the situation in Belgium, from health minister Frank Vandenbroucke.

    He told reporters that a “tsunami” would be a scenario where “we no longer control what is happening". The health pressures in Brussels and the southern French-speaking Wallonia region were “the most dangerous in all of Europe”, he said.

    Belgium is now recording on average almost 8,000 cases a day. Most are in Brussels and Liège. That figure is four times higher than the daily average only two weeks ago.

    In the past three days, more than 10,000 daily cases were recorded.

    The death rate is also slowly rising again, at around 30 per day. But that is still 10 times less than at the peak of the first wave, when Belgium had the world’s highest coronavirus death rate per capita.

    There is concern over medical staff and their ability to cope with an influx of cases. Several hospitals in Brussels and Liège have started sending patients elsewhere to avoid saturation. In some cases hospitals in Aalst and Charleroi refused to accept new Covid patients. The mayor of Aalst, Christophe D’Haese, said “the limits of medical solidarity" had been reached.

    Doctors' surgeries are also feeling the strain. On Friday, I called my GP for a check-up and was told to avoid coming in because the chance of contracting coronavirus was too high. The doctor said the place was “an aquarium of Covid cases”. Authorities here blame the spread on “pandemic fatigue” - people becoming complacent and no longer observing social distancing rules.

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  3. Belgian court says Lumumba's tooth should be returned

    Patrice Lumumba
    Image caption: Patrice Lumumba was murdered in 1961

    A court in Belgium has ruled that a tooth taken from the corpse of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba should be returned to his family, Belgian media are reporting.

    Lumumba, who became Congo's first prime minister after it gained independence from Belgium in 1960, was murdered in 1961 after he was abducted by separatist fighters.

    The Belgian government had a role in his death and in 2002 issued a formal apology.

    The British and American spy agencies are also believed to have been involved.

    Lumumba's tooth is thought to have been taken by a Belgian policeman who was helping to dispose of the body, AFP news agency reports.

    It was later seized by the Belgian authorities, AFP adds.

    The court in Belgium said that the tooth should be given to Lumumba's daughter, Juliana Lumumba, who had written a letter to the Belgian king asking for its return, the Brussels Times website reports.

    Earlier this year, the BBC spoke to Juliana Lumumba, about her father's legacy:

    Video content

    Video caption: DRC at 60: Patrice Lumumba 'fought for the independence'
  4. Mixed-race women take Belgium to court over colonial abuse

    BBC World Service

    Five mixed-race women in Belgium who were forcibly separated from their families in what was then the Belgian Congo have taken the Belgian state to court.

    The women, now in their 70s, say they were were taken to Catholic missions, where they were treated as the products of sin.

    They were abandoned when white Belgians fled the in-fighting that followed Congo's independence in 1960.

    Police sent to guard them subjected them to nightly sexual abuse.

    Monique Bitu Bingi, who's now 71, says she's not after money, she just wants the state to acknowledge the damage it did.

    It took her until six years ago to trace her father's family in Argentina. A preliminary hearing in Brussels on Thursday will determine the court timetable.

    Video content

    Video caption: The mixed children Belgium took from their mothers under colonial rule
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