For many of us who have to move around Europe on a weekly basis, the cacophony of national rules to fight the coronavirus pandemic makes things very complicated. We need things to be made simpler! Therefore, I’m welcoming the European Commission’s attempt to untangle the web of different travel restrictions in the European Union. Member States currently use different criteria for imposing travel restrictions, but the Commission would like them to base future decisions on common thresholds that take into account the recent number of infections, the percentage of positive tests and the total number of tests carried out. According to the proposal national authorities must send this data to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which will then publish a map with common color codes every week. An area of high coronavirus circulation colored red on the European map will then be automatically colored red for all Member States. Green zones should not be subject to travel restrictions. It remains to be seen to what extent the various countries will accept these recommendations. Let’s hope that common sense will prevail – Frankfurt am Main, Hessen, Germany.
The three previous nights the Republican Convention have led up to last night’s main event where Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination. Trump and other speakers have argued that under Trump the economy has only improved, foreign terrorists have been defeated, and the coronavirus pandemic is an afterthought. There is definitely a need to fact check some of these statements. Anyway, Donald Trump’s position on the corona pandemic is probably the reason why he made his closing address in front of an audience of around 1,500 officials and supporters at the White House, sitting packed together, few wearing masks. No corona concerns at all… As I’ve been following the Republican Convention with growing concern on the future of a country that I once liked so much, below picture came to mind, don’t know why… I took the picture while I was enjoying the Columbus Day Parade in Boston on 8 October, 2017.
Due to the growing number of corona infections the government has banned non-essential travel to several additional popular holiday destinations in Spain and France in its latest update. The National Crisis Centre continues to stress that people who are travelling abroad should realize that they are taking a risk. Whilst the number of new infections seems to continue to slow in Belgium, we’re seeing the virus flaring up in other European countries. A very good reason to stay put and enjoy our staycation and to continue to search for the beauty in ugliness off the beaten track in my hometown – Muidebrug, Ghent, Belgium
The number of new infections continues to fall. We’re down to an average of 506 people that tested positive for Covid-19 in Belgium. Whilst we are trying to manage the economic fallout of the pandemic the debate about climate change gains traction again. The popular notion that the COVID-19 pandemic has been “good for the environment” - that nature is recovering while we are all staying at home - appeals to many of us grasping for some upside to the global corona crisis. In April, with shutdown being widespread, the daily global carbon emissions were down by 17 percent. But what will happen as soon as the restrictions are released? Will we go right back to where we were? The health and economic crises could pull our attention away from the slower-moving disaster of climate change, which had finally been moving up the political agenda last year as youth strikes drove home its urgency. Will governments seek to shore up the economy by bolstering old, polluting industries, or embrace calls for a “green stimulus” and use recovery funds to create jobs in sectors such as clean power and energy efficiency? An opportunity we shouldn’t miss out on. On display today is a picture of the Centrale in Ghent: the urban power plant that was put cold in the 80’s – Nieuwe Dokken, Ghent, Belgium.
The reproduction number in Belgium has dropped to 0.9, Sophie Wilmès, Belgium’s Prime Minister, announced in a press conference following yesterday’s meeting of the National Security Council that the measures the country took at the end of July are proving to be effective. However, since the virus is still present in our society a return to normal is not yet possible. The good news is that all pupils will be able to return to school in a full-time five-day week on 1 September. Though, face masks will remain compulsory for all pupils over 12 years old. In addition, shopping in pairs and more spectators at events will be allowed. The social contact bubble of five people you are allowed to be in close contact with will be extended until the end of September. Also, the measure that makes the wearing of face masks in shops and shopping centres, and in certain public areas such as in museums or at events will remain in place. In addition to that measure, local authorities can continue to take extra measures, such as making it mandatory to wear a face mask on certain streets or in certain districts. Net-net, the lack of a uniform rule for the face mask obligation across the country will continue to confuse all of us. Amidst all of this I continue to wander through my hometown hoping that pictures will find me, snapping the city as it unrolls before my eyes. Searching for beauty in ugliness… – Muidebrug, Ghent, Belgium.
The number of people testing positive for Covid 19 and the number of patients admitted to hospital continues to rise and the economic fallout of the corona crisis becomes more pronounced. Unemployment is up 8% versus the same period last year and the government has seen fiscal revenue fall by almost 10 billion euro. This is a 17% fall in revenue. It is not hard to find an explanation. We have seen a fall in revenue from all types of taxation that are connected to the economy and how it is performing. When shops, restaurants and bars are closed people consume less so there is less income from VAT. In addition to this companies have been given the possibility of delaying part of their tax payments. Whilst Belgium is facing all these challenges the country broke its own standing record for the longest political crisis and longest period without an elected government last Sunday. It has been 592 days since the previous government, led by former Prime Minister Charles Michel, collapsed over inter-party tensions on migration in December 2018. Despite all of this when I wander around downtown Ghent it almost feels like normal. Am I getting used to the new normal? – Grasbrug, Ghent, Belgium
We should not ‘delude’ ourselves over the notion that we are in the all-clear. It isn’t all over! In Belgium the number of people that tested positive for the coronavirus between 22 and 28 July shows that an average of 448 people/day tested positive for the virus. This is more than double the average of 219 people/day that tested positive during the week between 15 and 21 July. I don’t think it’s ill-judged to claim the mode of everyday living that we have built for ourselves over the past months will go on for a while, at least until a vaccine becomes widely available. We must endure! We shouldn’t see the restriction that have been imposed on us as an intermission in our lives but more as a new reality. Unfortunately, a lot of people find it difficult to behave responsibly and adhere to the rules of the new normal. Today’s picture is one that I took in the city center of Ghent tow days ago. If we want to avoid a second lockdown, we will need to reduce the people in our social bubble to an absolute minimum and get more serious about social distancing and wearing face masks. The people pictured have lots of fun but you definitely can question if they behave responsible – Ajuinlei, Ghent, Belgium
As expected the Belgian government introduced additional restrictions to prevent the rapid and “worrying” increase in coronavirus infections from becoming a full-blown second wave. From tomorrow, and for at least the next four weeks, social bubbles will be reduced to a maximum of 5 fixed people per household. As of tomorrow, also shopping needs tobe done alone and everyone will be allowed to stay in a shop for a maximum of 30 minutes, telework is again strongly advised and one is required to register and leave contact details in wellness centers, sports classes and restaurants and pubs. The good news is that Janssen Pharmaceutica, the Antwerp based division of the American multinational Johnson & Johnson. has started testing on humans a vaccine that it hopes will offer protection against the novel coronavirus. The tests will be carried out both here in Belgium and in the United States. The original plan was to commence testing on humans in September. However, research on the development of the vaccine is running ahead of schedule. At the risk of being accused of behaving irresponsibly and out of touch with the fact that a merciless virus is killing people around the world we decided to continue to enjoy long hikes in the Black Forest - Haslachschlucht, Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
The virus is gaining ground across Europe. In Belgium, the rolling average for the daily number of coronavirus cases in the seven days between 16 and 22 July now stands at 255 a day. This compares with a daily average of only 149 in the previous seven day observation period. Figures for 22 July show 534 people tested positive for coronavirus on that day. Belgium’s National Security Council is meeting today and will most likely announce stricter measures to contain the spread of the virus. Tucked away in a small village deep in the Black Forest we feel relatively safe, however, I’m afraid that the beauty of the region is lulling us into a false sense of security - Triberg, Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Flanders glows orange on the map presented by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The colour indicates over twenty cases of coronavirus per 100,000 head of population during the past fortnight. Experts keep emphasizing that contact between people needs to be reduced if Belgium wants to avoid a second wave of Coronavirus infections. As a result of the call for action from experts Belgium’s National Security Council will meet to assess the situation and hopefully take more firm actions tomorrow. In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute, which is in charge of the fight against infectious diseases pointed to a sharp daily increase in new infections in certain parts of the country. Amidst a tsunami of ominous news, we were visiting the Triberg Falls. They aren’t the Niagara Falls but still they are known as Germany’s highest waterfalls. The Gutach River feeds the seven-tiered falls, which drop a total of 163m - Triberg, Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
"Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with how you see them."
I just like to take pictures, I just push the button. I never worked in the darkroom, I never studied photography or journalism; I’m just a passionate photographer.
"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure, without a loss of enthusiasm”
Sir Winston Churchill
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