Heatwave hits Brussels with temperature over 30 degrees

Robie de Guzman   •   June 25, 2019   •   1148

Various people filling water bottles at a fountain | Courtesy : Reuters

Temperatures soared in Brussels on Monday (June 24) kicking off a heatwave with temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius expected in the Belgian capital from Tuesday, up to 34 degrees in the north of the country.

The Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute said high temperatures were caused by the circulation of subtropical air between a depression located over the Atlantic Ocean and an anticyclone covering an area ranging from Iceland to Russia.

On its website, the Walloon government issued a series of recommendations including drinking more than a liter of water per day and avoiding alcohol, closing the windows and curtains in rooms exposed to the sun, wearing light clothes and a hat.

The Brussels regional government wrote on Twitter that pollution levels will increase but not go beyond the 180 micrograms per cubic meter threshold above which the public has to be informed of risks. (REUTERS)

Hospital staff in Belgium stage silent protest as PM Wilmes visits

UNTV News   •   May 18, 2020

Belgian Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmes, was met by a silent protest during a non-official visit to Saint-Pierre Hospital in Brussels on Saturday (May 16).

A video obtained by Reuters showed medical staff wearing protective equipment standing silent in two rows and turning their backs as the Prime Minister arrived in a car.

The workers staged the protest to call for increased acknowledgement of their efforts and against a decree to recruit unqualified staff to carry out nursing activities, according to local media.

Belgian schools will partially reopen and markets, museums and zoos will also be allowed to operate again from Monday (May 18), Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said on Wednesday (May 13), in a further easing of the country’s two-month coronavirus lockdown.

Belgium, with a population of 11.5 million, is among the European nations worst hit by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, but it began a phased easing of the restrictions at the start of May.

The country has so far reported 54,989 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,005 deaths. (Reuters)

(Production: Oleksandr Ieltsov, Hanna Rantala, Gabriela Boccaccio)

Deaf Belgians demand transparent masks for lip-reading during COVID-19 pandemic

UNTV News   •   May 7, 2020

As Belgium obliges people to wear face masks on public transport and recommends them elsewhere to limit the spread of the coronavirus, deaf people are calling for transparent masks to allow them to communicate with others.

For the hearing-impaired who rely on lip-reading to complement sign language, even buying an ice cream can now be difficult as shop assistants wear medical or home-made cotton masks that cover almost half the face.

“We are no longer able to read lips. It prevents communication,” said Marie-Florence Devalet of Belgium’s French-speaking deaf federation, saying it can add to the anxiety of living through a pandemic.

Over 5% of the world’s population – or 466 million people – has disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization.

Belgium, like other European countries, is slowly coming out of lockdown as the wave of transmission of the coronavirus eases, but donning masks is new to much of the population.

With green and white medical masks around the world in short supply, transparent masks are even harder to find. Some are advertised online but usually end up being face shields for the whole head and worn by medical staff in hospitals.

At the Royal Woluwe Institute in Brussels, a special-needs school, teachers are sewing masks that contain a transparent window to show the mouth, which can be especially important for children with autism.

However, each mask takes 30 minutes to make and requires a double layer of cotton fabric, ribbons and a plastic sheet.

One charity in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region has created videos in Dutch teaching people how to make the masks with a transparent window for the mouth. French and English videos are being developed. (Reuters)

(Production Clement Rossignol, Christian Levaux)

Trump urges U.S. to halt most social activity in virus fight, warns of recession

UNTV News   •   March 17, 2020

President Donald Trump urged Americans on Monday (March 16) to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Announcing new guidelines from his coronavirus task force, the president said people should avoid discretionary travel and not go to bars, restaurants, food courts or gyms.

As stocks tumbled, Trump warned that a recession was possible, a development that could affect his chances of re-election in November. The Republican president said he was focused on addressing the health crisis and that the economy would get better once that was in line.

The task force implored young people to follow the new guidelines even though they were at lesser risk of suffering if they contract the virus. Older people, especially those with underlying health problems, are at the greatest risk if they develop the respiratory disease.

Reporters staggered their seating, sitting in every other seat in the White House briefing room, to follow social distancing measures.

Trump said the worst of the virus could be over by July, August or later. He called it an invisible enemy.

The president has taken criticism for playing down the seriousness of the virus in the early days of its U.S. spread. On Monday, when asked, he gave himself a good grade for his response.

“I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job,” he said.

Trump said a nationwide curfew was not under consideration at this point.

Normally a cheerleader for the U.S. economy, he acknowledged the possibility of a recession while brushing off another dramatic decline on stock markets as investors worried about the virus.

“We’re not thinking in terms of recession, we’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent up demand, both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy,” Trump said. The president has long considered soaring stock markets to be a sign of his administration’s success.

Trump said the administration had talked regularly about domestic travel restrictions but hoped not to have to put such measures in place.

He said he thought it would still be possible for G7 leaders to meet at the Camp David retreat in Maryland in June. Trump upset European countries, which make up a large part of the G7, by instituting travel restrictions from European countries without consulting with them first. (Reuters)

(Production: Katharine Jackson)

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