Belgium

Belgian king's bust vandalised in Brusssels

Vandalised bust of King Leopold
AFP

A bust of former Belgian King Leopold II near the capital, Brussels, has been vandalised for a third time by anti-racist protesters, AFP news agency reports.

The sculpture has been targeted as he governed over what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 19th Century during a time when people were brutally treated.

BLM – standing for Black Lives Matter – was daubed in red paint at the foot of the bust, which is outside the country’s Africa museum.

Museum director Guido Gryseels is quoted by AFP as saying that he planned to add a plaque to the bust to add historical context but admitted that whether the piece should be there at all is now up for debate.

Belgium tightens restrictions again amid spike

Young people in street in Antwerp, 27 Jul 20
AFP
Antwerp is the focus of concern now in Belgium

Belgium is tightening restrictions - but avoiding another lockdown - because of a worrying rise in Covid-19 cases.

From Wednesday, Belgians will be allowed to see a maximum of five people outside of their families. Currently a Belgian individual can meet 15 people in a "social bubble".

The rise in cases has been especially sharp in the city of Antwerp.

In the past week an average of 279 people daily have caught coronavirus in Belgium, compared with 163 a day the week before. The current death toll officially is 9,821.

"Until now, the 'social bubble' of each person was limited to 15 people per week. From Wednesday, it will be limited to five people, always the same ones, for the next four weeks, and this for an entire family," said PM Sophie Wilmès.

"So we are counting for the household and no longer per person. Children under the age of 12 do not count in those five people."

Belgium is also halving the numbers allowed at public gatherings - to 100 indoors, and 200 outdoors.

Europe anxious about rising infection rates

British tourists in Majorca, 26 Jul 20
PA Media
British tourists in Majorca

New outbreaks in Spain, mostly clustered in north-eastern regions, have dealt a blow to the vital tourism industry.

Urgent talks are under way with the UK, after quarantine was imposed on Britons returning from holiday. Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya insisted that "Spain is a safe country". "Like other European countries, Spain has new outbreaks. It's not unusual."

Official data shows the Aragón region, in Spain’s north-east, topping the list of infection rates in Europe, at about 238 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The next high-risk region is Catalonia (112), then Navarre (110). But much of Spain – notably the Canaries and Balearic islands - has far lower rates, and the country as a whole is ranked sixth.

Belgium is also worried about a new surge in cases: nationally the infection rate is 26.9 per 100,000 people, but in Antwerp it is 67.9. Belgian officials are anxious to avoid reimposing a national lockdown, but tighter measures are expected in Antwerp and some other clusters.

In Austria attention is focused on the resort of St Wolfgang, after 56 people tested positive, nearly all of them hotel staff. Hundreds of tourists are on holiday now in the village of 3,000 residents, especially popular among Germans. They have been advised to get tested for coronavirus. It echoes a winter outbreak in Ischgl, a major ski resort, blamed for spreading the virus widely among tourists.