It’s the unexpected that changes our lives… As I’m starting this coronavirus diary, I have no idea how our lives will be impacted by it… One thing I now know for sure is that it will have a big impact on us, our society, life in Belgium, Europe, the entire world…
Just a month ago, we never expected something like this could ever happen here. Just a week ago, our life was very predictable, with a simple daily routine, school, work, and trips we were looking forward to… And coronavirus was still only something we heard on the news… Now, all that’s left is uncertainty and the unexpected…
So I decided to start keeping a sort of coronavirus diary, a daily blog of how coronavirus impacts our life here in Belgium. I’ll include official updates of coronavirus in Belgium as they roll in, but this is in no way an official source of information. Just a daily blog of our lives in times of Coronavirus…
If you are looking for information on COVID-19 in general or coronavirus updates in European countries, I urge you to check the official sources:
- World Health Organization for worldwide updates
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control for the up-to-date coronavirus situation in Europe
I expect that this will be a long diary. So to make it easier, you can just click on the dates below or jump to the latest update.
- Day 1 – March 11, 2020
- Day 10 – March 20, 2020
- Day 20- March 30, 2020
- Day 40 – April 19, 2020
- Day 50 – April 29, 2020
- Day 60 – May 9, 2020
- Day 70 – May 19, 2020
- Day 80 – May 29, 2020
- Day 86 – June 4, 2020 – Reopening
- July 28, 2020
- September 4, 2020
For those of you who don’t know us. We’re a Belgian family of 5 with three boys age 9, 9, and 11. We love to travel and have been running this travel blog, Full Suitcase, for over 4 years. If we can, we spend most of the kids’ school holidays traveling and discovering the world.
But now… now we’re at home due to Coronavirus, just like millions of other families worldwide. Wondering how in the world we’ll survive this period of at least 5 weeks and how our lives will be influenced by everything that’s still to come…
Below is our daily diary, starting with the first day when the Coronavirus changed our plans. I’ll try to update this blog daily, so follow along and let’s hope we all get through this safely!
Day 1 – March 11, 2020
School trip canceled
Today was the first day when coronavirus directly touched our lives. We received a message from our kids’ school to say that all school excursions and trips were being canceled. Including a 10-day ‘snow classes’ trip to Switzerland for the 6th graders that was supposed to leave in just 5 days, on March 16th…
The kids at school were devastated. Our oldest son as well. They had been looking forward to this trip for over 5 years. They talked about nothing else but Switzerland since September. They learned all there was to learn about Switzerland, the region they were going to, Swiss food, culture, even Alpine animals…
So the news that this trip was canceled hit really hard. Everyone was so upset. Was it really necessary?!
In the meantime, on the way to the music school, we stopped to buy some Swiss chocolate for all the kids in our son’s class. A chocolate bar of Toblerone wouldn’t make up for a canceled dream trip, but would hopefully cheer them up a bit. People looked a bit strange when we bought 24 chocolate bars at a store. Relax, people, we’re not hoarding Toblerone…
Belgium coronavirus update: 314 infected, 3 dead
Day 2 – March 12, 2020
From ‘no reason to close schools’ to ‘schools are closing for 5 weeks’
At school, we were greeted by a group of angry kids shouting ‘we want snow classes’. 6th-grade teachers clearly hadn’t slept much last night. The teachers decided to cancel all the lessons and take the kids to play in a nearby forest. Other lessons for younger kids went as planned.
I received an email that my mom’s flight to Belgium end of April was canceled. My mom lives in Lithuania, we live in Belgium. She was planning to come to visit us and also go see the tulip fields in the Netherlands for the first time. Should we reschedule it for the next day or just cancel it altogether? Who knows how the situation end of April will be…
We watched the evening news where the Minister-President of Flanders repeated that there was no reason to close schools in Belgium at the moment.
Just a few hours later, the Belgian government held a conference and announced that (among others) schools would be closing in Belgium from next Monday and for at least 3 weeks. After that, we have the Easter holidays, so schools would remain closed for at least 5 weeks.
Day 3 – March 13, 2020
Hoarding food and lockdown parties
Friday the 13th was a strange day and not a day our government anticipated, I suppose… In order to give people and businesses time to adjust, all the quarantine measures would go into effect at midnight from Friday to Saturday. This meant that everyone was out and about the whole day – stocking up on food and quite a lot of people were partying one last time before everything would close…
It’s so sad that so many people didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. Who in his right mind thinks it’s a good idea to organize a ‘lockdown party’ in times of this worldwide pandemics…
I brought the kids to school telling them to make sure to bring all their school books home. As I drove home, I passed a few supermarkets on my way. The shops were just about to open, but the parking lots were crowded already. Glad we did our weekly shopping a few days ago. It’s not the moment to go shopping when everyone else is doing it… But I wondered how will the shops would look like in a week from now…
As we drove back home from school at 4 pm, we passed a local café that was full of people. Crowded as I’ve never seen it before… Yes, some people apparently thought this was a good thing to do – laugh the crisis away as if it was all just a bad dream…
In the meantime, in Italy, people were singing and playing music on their balconies. A heart-warming sight.
Day 4 – March 14, 2020
Belgium goes into quarantine
So it happened. Belgium is in a sort of lockdown since midnight with everything closing for at least 3 weeks. No schools, no restaurants, no museums, no events… People are asked to work from home as much as possible.
The government asked parents not to bring kids to their grandparents and schools were obliged to provide some kind of daycare for those kids whose parents absolutely had to go to work (nurses, doctors, etc) or who could not find a place to leave their kids.
Food stores remained open as usual and all the other shops are open during weekdays only. For now.
It’s forbidden to visit retirement homes or hospitals (with few exceptions for sick kids/parents and patients who are in a critical condition). All the doctor’s consultations and planned treatments are suspended. Hospitals are preparing more beds and focus on re-training doctors that specialize in other fields to stand-by for a surge of coronavirus patients.
Public transport continues to run. Hotels are open, but restaurants are closed. Drive-in or takeaway is allowed and Belgian fritkots (a type of food stalls/ kiosks that sell Belgian fries) are allowed to remain open but under strict restrictions and social distancing.
If you had any plans to travel to Belgium before April 3, it’s really not the best idea. However, nobody knows how long this will last and any of these measures might be strengthened even more if needed. This is the situation for now.
We spent our day putting away winter clothes and working in the garden… some fresh air would do us good.
Many Belgians decided that it was a good idea to cross the border and go shopping and partying in the Netherlands, where everything is still open as usual. Really?!
Doctors plead in the press ‘to those of you who are partying today, keep in mind that we might not have enough hospital beds for your parents in a few weeks from now... Stay home!’
Day 5 – March 15, 2020
It’s becoming very clear – this is not a drill
In the morning, I drove to our local supermarket to buy some bread, as we always do on Sundays. It was a bit busier than normal, but there was plenty of bread, fruit, vegetables, and meat. The shelves of pasta and pasta sauces were almost empty though…
My mom and several family members sent pictures of empty shelves in the supermarkets in Lithuania. Friends are sharing similar pictures and stories from all over the world…
Many European countries are closing borders and getting their citizens back home. The borders of Belgium are open, but many flights are canceled.
We spent the day cleaning windows, cooking, playing board games, bicycling, and watching TV. The Sunday-morning program ‘De Zevende Dag‘ on the official news channel in Flanders was eye-opening. It’s getting very clear – this is not something that will just pass in a few weeks from now.
My husband spent hours on the phone helping to install Skype on his father’s computer – not so easy by phone.
Specialists estimate that 60-80% of the population will get sick and tens of thousands of people will die… The only way to keep this somewhat under control and avoid even more deaths is flattening the curve and hoping that hospitals will be able to cope.
Also in the Netherlands, schools, cafés, and restaurants are closing until at least the 6th of April. France now also closes all ‘non-essential’ shops and public spaces. The UK is still going for ‘herd immunity’ and everything remains open.
Belgium coronavirus update: 689 infected, 4 dead
Day 6 – March 16, 2020
Shortage of surgical masks in Belgian hospitals
Monday. The first day of no school (but all the teachers are starting to send homework to keep the kids busy over the next week).
We’re trying to establish some kind of routine now that we’re all stuck at home for at least 5 weeks. It’s not an easy thing to do with 3 kids, who also have to study a bit every day. Luckily, we have a garden and lots of space for them to play, but every parent knows that even a weekend with kids can be a real hell. They fight about everything. Everything. ‘Mom, my brother looked at me.‘ How do you even start solving a world-crisis like this…
They also need to be entertained and kept busy. ALL THE TIME. Otherwise, they’ll end up in front of the TV, a PlayStation or their tablets for hours and days in a row…
Working from home when kids are at home is easier said than done…. I hardly get anything new published on the blog these days…
We went bicycling again. As we passed a local train station, we heard coronavirus warnings through the loudspeakers on the train platform: ‘wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, keep a safe distance from other passengers…’. The streets were not deserted at all and the car parking of a local shopping square was full of cars.
In the meantime on the news – there may soon not be enough face masks at the Belgian hospitals. People who bought face masks are urged to donate them to the nearest hospital.
Germany closes most of its borders. At the moment, at least 8 European countries have closed their borders already: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Switzerland, and Germany. Many more countries are not allowing foreigners into the country unless they live and work there. It’s a good thing our son is not on his way to Switzerland today, as it was planned…
Belgium coronavirus update: 1058 infected, 10 dead
Day 7 – March 17, 2020
New Corona-Government in Belgium, canceled flights, and queues to enter supermarkets
Our day started with countless emails from kids’ teachers and lots of school tasks for all three kids. Even their gym teacher sent a few self-made Youtube videos with exercises they can do at home and in the garden. It’s amazing to see how dedicated all the teachers are! In the afternoon, even more emails from the music school started coming in too…
Needless to say, we spent the whole day homeschooling and running from one child to another; answering questions, checking their work, explaining what and why, helping to upload it online for the teachers to check… Of course, there was no time to get any work done ourselves…
I also canceled my mom’s flight to Brussels. Just a few hours later, Brussels Airlines announced that they are suspending ALL flights starting from the 21st of March and till the 20th of April. Now I wonder how long it will be till we get our money back… But that’s just a small amount, not something to lose our sleep over. Our spring road trip to Spain is a whole other story…
Since Spain is in quarantine at the moment and the EU just announced that it’s closing its borders for 30 days and discouraging any non-essential travel inside the EU, we will have to cancel our Andalusia trip. We have prepaid all our hotels, as we usually do because it’s cheaper and we have good trip insurance anyway. But… it turns out that our travel cancelation insurance doesn’t cover pandemics unless we ourselves get sick (hopefully not!). So we’ll just have to count on the goodwill of the hotels and hopefully get our money back. To be continued…
On the news – more and more stores in Belgium are closing. Not many customers are still shopping these days and employees have to be home for their kids… Food stores are open. In the meantime, Belgians started running to pharmacies and are hoarding paracetamol…
And so I went to do our weekly grocery shopping… There was a queue to enter the supermarket! Nothing too serious yet – I was inside just 5 minutes later, but this doesn’t look promising… They are now starting to limit the number of people allowed inside the shops at the same time. Apparently, it’s going to be even stricter from tomorrow – 1 person per 10 sq.m. Crazy times…
Despite limiting the number of people who are allowed inside, it was quite busy inside the supermarket. Also, I couldn’t find any potatoes, eggs, or bell peppers. Almost all the milk was sold out, there was almost no pasta, no rice… Luckily, there was quite some meat and fish and also fruit and vegetables. Oh, and plenty of Belgian chocolate. We’re set for another week or so.
On the good news – the corona crisis prompted some changes in Belgian politics. Since today, we have a new ‘corona government’. Yes, that’s what they call it. It’s too hard to explain without writing the whole article about it, but Belgium has been without a proper government since last year’s elections (May 2019!). Politicians are still not capable to form a proper government, but they all agreed that this corona-crisis requires one. So now we have a government for 6 months with one task only – manage the corona crisis without fighting each other. Only in Belgium…
Belgium coronavirus update: 1243 infected, 10 dead
Day 8 – March 18, 2020
Even stricter quarantine rules and business comes to a halt
Starting at noon today, the rules about social distancing here in Belgium were brought to yet another level (and this at least till April 5, 2020 ). We are not allowed to go anywhere except when it’s absolutely necessary. In other words – you can only go to work (if working from home is not an option), to a pharmacy, or to a supermarket.
As expected, supermarkets are now imposing 1 person per 10 sq. meters rule and you can’t be inside for longer than 30 minutes. This is leading to long queues at all the food stores everywhere in the country. All the other shops are now officially closed. Belgian fritkots are still remaining open (fries are a basic necessity here in Belgium!)…
You can also go bicycling, jogging, or walk in nature, but only close to your home (so no driving to the coast or so), and only with your family members who live together. Otherwise, maximum two people can do something together if they also keep at least 1,5m distance from each other… I feel for all those young couples who have just started dating…
On the personal front, we spent another day homeschooling and not getting much useful done. It’s hard to remain focused on anything with so much going on…
As you can imagine, my business – a travel website – is at its all-time-low and income is nearing 0. Nobody is traveling or planning any new trips (understandably) and so everyone in the travel industry is suffering hard at the moment. This is also the time when we’ll find out which partners are worth working with in the future. Sadly, some companies are taking very short-sighted decisions…
If you are a loyal reader and want to help – the best way to do this is by continuing to read our articles, share them with your friends, bookmark them for later, and come back to book your trips via our website when all this mess is over. Because it will be over one day and there are so many amazing places in the world just waiting to be discovered! Just not now…
For now, we are all hitting a pause button. And while you’re at it, check out our selection of some of the all-time best travel films. Perfect for these crazy times!
Belgium coronavirus update: 1486 infected, 14 dead
Day 9 – March 19, 2020
Is this just a bad dream?
It’s a strange feeling – being safely at home and reading all the terrible news from all around Europe – 475 people died of coronavirus in Italy in just one day; 1 death every 17 minutes in Madrid… It all sounds like a bad dream, far away from us… Except it’s not.
Belgian hospitals are preparing for a surge in corona-patients. The Flemish government made it possible to build new hospitals without building permission. The University Hospital of Antwerp made a step-by-step guide with instructions on how to sew face masks and people are massively responding to this… In the meantime, China sent 30,000 surgical masks to Belgium, with more to follow later this week…
Our days are so filled with (kids) activities that we hardly have the time to read the news. I guess it’s better this way… Kids are now using all kinds of online communication methods to talk to their teachers and friends and make school tasks. But it’s us, parents, who have to help them with everything. Keeps us busy, that’s for sure.
My husband took one of the kids bicycling today. They passed a small local supermarket and there was nobody there, so they brought some more bread, potatoes, and eggs – products that I couldn’t find in the bigger supermarket a few days ago. It’s crazy how some stores have tens of people queuing outside and some others are empty. Maybe it’s just the lucky timing…
We also started canceling our trip to Spain and I’m impressed with the way some companies are handling our – nonrefundable – bookings. Big thank you to RentalCars.com and Rotterdam Airport Parking for reimbursing all our money back immediately. It looks like the majority of the hotels we booked in Spain also understand that there is no way for us to travel now and will be refunding our bookings as well. However, sadly, some others insist that we come on a later day. I wish we could, but there is just no way we can now rebook this trip with any certainty… We are already fearing for our summer trip to Norway. I sincerely hope this mess is over by then…
Another company I want to give a big shout-out to is GetYourGuide, our favorite company for tour and activity bookings worldwide, and one of our blog partners in good and bad times. It’s impressive how they handle this tough situation to make sure that their clients, partners, and staff come in the first place. It’s the company I’m proud to work with and promote on our blog.
That’s it for today. I still have kids’ homework to upload for their teachers to review. The day is over before you know it…
Belgium coronavirus update: 1795 infected, 21 dead. 155 declared healthy again.
Day 10 – March 20, 2020
Belgium closes its borders
These days we’re afraid of any cough or a sneeze… My husband was also feeling a bit weak today and you can’t help but think – corona??? Whereas on any normal day, we also sneeze and cough and feel tired… without ever giving it a second thought…
We wake up and go to sleep with the c-word in our heads. It’s everywhere… For now, we are all healthy and grateful for that.
Belgium has received 5mln surgical masks this morning. It’s a big relief and they are now being distributed to hospitals all over the country.
People all over the country are applauding for healthcare workers – at 8 pm on Wednesday and then again at noon today, on Friday.
This morning, over 180 radio stations across Europe transmitted the same song at the same time – Gerry & The Pacemakers’ ‘You Never Walk Alone’, in order to show solidarity against coronavirus. At the same time, people are all literally walking alone (if they even go anywhere).
In the meantime on the news. Hotels in the Belgian Ardennes are full of people from the Netherlands – vacationing. How is that even possible… Some municipalities are starting to close all the hotels and campings. Belgium is closing its borders. The borders are now also being controlled to make sure that only people who work in neighboring countries are still crossing the borders.
Kids are keeping us busy. The teachers sent some toilet roll craft ideas this morning and guess who had to help them build it. Hint – not me 🙂 I’m so thankful that my husband is taking the role of the head-home-teacher during this quarantine. It’s a full-time job just trying to keep up with everything the kids have to do for school and music school…
Belgium coronavirus update: 2257 infected, 37 dead.
Day 11 – March 21, 2020
The first day of spring was beautiful here, so we went for a long walk. We’re lucky to live next to the biggest nature reserve in Flanders and walks in nature are still allowed and even encouraged (as long as you follow the rules of social distancing). It felt good to be outdoors again. The kids climbed every single tree they came across… I wonder how long we will still be allowed to take walks or go bicycling… Crazy times… How will our kids remember this period…
We received an email from our airline that the flights to Spain are now canceled. However, this airline, as opposed to the more serious ones, is not issuing any refunds and only vaguely saying that they’ll issue a voucher for later use, without giving any details whatsoever. How long will it be valid, can we rebook for next year or will it only be valid for a short time… I guess they don’t know it themselves yet…
I also published a new blog post (after working on it – in bits and pieces – for a week). It’s about one of the most special places I ever visited – Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland. It left me dreaming of the better days…
I also did my best to stay away from the news today, but even those few bits and pieces that I heard sounded scary. Coronavirus is rapidly spreading all over the world and nobody really knows how bad it truly is. Even the number of known cases is increasing so fast and nobody is taking the time to test everyone unless it’s absolutely necessary…
Italy just broke another sad record with 793 corona deaths in one day… It’s hard to even comprehend what that means… My heart is with all the Italians – I love that country and its people so much. And the end is not in sight yet I’m afraid.
Belgium coronavirus update: 2815 infected, 67 dead.
Day 12 – March 22, 2020
Enjoying the outdoors… while we can
It’s been a quiet Sunday for us. You’d almost forget all the suffering around you and think it’s just a regular weekend… Baking pancakes with kids, working in the garden, watching a movie, going for a walk in the neighborhood…
But you notice it in so many little details. Life isn’t as usual. There are hardly any cars on the streets and – ironically – we’ve never seen so many people walking or bicycling around our home. We often go for a walk in the neighborhood, but on a regular day, we hardly ever meet anyone. Today, it was different. No big crowds or anything like that (we live in a quiet area so seeing 10 people in the street is a once-a-year event) – just some families and older couples enjoying the spring weather and the outdoors…
It’s as if everyone wants to get outside now that we know that our freedom to move around is getting more and more limited. I read that some places in Italy don’t allow longer than 5 minutes’ walk from home and bicycling is forbidden now… How did it ever get this far…
Some people say hi and smile, but quite some others have fear in their eyes… I’m sad, so sad for those people who are so scared of everything and everyone around them. That’s what this invisible enemy is doing to us… But we shouldn’t let it come in the way of saying hi and being friendly to each other (albeit from a distance)…
The good news is that – for the first time – there are fewer deaths in Italy than the day before. Let’s hope this is a good sign. But the situation in Spain is getting worse by day and here in Belgium it’s all just starting… The UK seems to have understood that they have to do something and are now telling certain groups of people to stay home… for at least 12 weeks…
At the same time, so many other places don’t seem to realize yet what’s coming their way… But those of you, who are reading this, please please stay at home or enjoy the outdoors on your own. It can literally save lives!
Belgium coronavirus update: 3401 infected, 75 dead.
Day 13 – March 23, 2020
Family quality time
What a strange feeling being at home in your own safe cocoon and seeing all this suffering and uncertainty in the world and around us… They say, we can best help by staying home, so we do our best, but it also feels so strange – as if the world stands still. That’s till you switch on the news…
It’s also scary how every country and even different parts of some countries are taking completely different measures. This virus doesn’t know borders and we can only fight it if all of us do our best. But economic interests are not insignificant and it’s a really tough choice to make for everyone involved. Tough decisions that cost lives and livelihoods of so many people worldwide…
It seems that the increase in corona cases is somewhat slowing down here in Belgium, but we’re also one of the countries that took hard measures quite early… Still, no reasons to celebrate yet and nobody knows how the situation will evolve. Also, there are still very few tests being done, so the actual numbers are probably much higher…
Our day was rather quiet as we’re settling into this new ‘normal’. Kids do their homework, read, play, have too much screen-time and ask for even more… Oh, and we also played Scrabble and somehow I managed to lose, which made the kids really happy. That’s what they call quality time with your family, I suppose…
Somewhere in between all that, I’m also trying to do at least some work on the blog. Today it mostly meant answering emails from our readers after I sent out our newsletter yesterday… So many similar stories of ruined travel plans, but also of hope and solidarity. This too shall pass… one day.
Stay safe, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 3743 infected, 88 dead.
Day 14 – March 24, 2020
Olympic Games postponed
Are you still reading the news? I don’t, but even then – it still reaches me somehow… The news of the day is that the Olympic Games are postponed, probably for a year… Also that the UK is finally going into quarantine; something most other countries in Europe have done a week ago already… Oh, and the stock exchange is going up like crazy… Do they really think this will be over so quickly???
I don’t even want to go into all the social media messages and all kinds of ‘prognosis’ that I’m seeing every day. The reality is that nobody knows and that’s what makes this situation so frightening. If you’d know it’s only for a few weeks and life gets back to normal after that, then it would be just like being on an extended spring break. But the uncertainty is truly the worst, isn’t it?
I’m trying not to think about it all too much. Luckily, we have so much to do that the days are over before we know it and there is no time left to worry.
Talking about being busy, I managed to finish one more article that’s been in the draft for a while – a guide to the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. Writing about it and seeing all the pictures again, made me forget everything else for a while. It’s such a good feeling – the world was back to normal, even if just for a short while. Take a look at the pictures in the article – doesn’t it make you dream of traveling again?!
That’s it for now. Believe it or not, our kids have a video call with their music teacher at 7.30 PM and so we need to set it all up for them. What in the world would we be filling our days with if we didn’t have kids…
The picture is of some flowers in our garden. Luckily the weather is amazing here. Sunshine and flowers make everything better!
Belgium coronavirus update: 4269 infected, 122 dead.
Day 15 – March 25, 2020
Prince Charles gets corona
It was a tough day today. I have the feeling that this isolation is starting to weigh on all of us. My oldest son went to bed feeling sick and I’m not feeling well either… No corona symptoms, just not feeling well, and I think it all has to do with being stuck at home, just the five of us 24/7, with no other contact or change of scenery.
Can’t help but think how tough it must be for all those families with young kids living in a small apartment… At least, we have enough space to take some distance from one another, go into the garden, move around… Someone shared a joke on Facebook today saying that ‘if there’s a baby boom in 9 months from now, it will all be first-born kids in the family… And the rest will be going for a divorce’… Let’s hope not, but it surely is tough on everyone…
The corona situation in Belgium got much worse today, proving that it’s far, far from over. 668 new confirmed corona cases and 56 deaths in one day… A new sad record.
More and more people all over the world are getting the virus and the rich and the famous aren’t being spared either. Prince Albert of Monaco, Prince Charles in the UK… A thought crossed my mind today – what if one of those people die? Will there be a state funeral under these circumstances? How would they solve that…
Anyway, sorry for my dark thoughts today. Tomorrow is a new day. And then another one. And then a day will come when all of this will be over…
In the meantime, I’m going to get a glass of wine and join my husband for a cozy TV evening by the fireplace… See you tomorrow!
Belgium coronavirus update: 4937 infected, 178 dead.
Day 16 – March 26, 2020
To shop or not to shop, that’s the question
It’s been 10 days since I went grocery shopping and while we still have enough food in the freezer, I kept on asking myself whether I should go grocery shopping again. We can use up everything we have in the house first, but what if there will be stricter measures again, or one of us gets sick and we’ll have to stay home for at least a few weeks…
And so I decided not to wait any longer. After all, it would be irresponsible to have no food left in the house when we have three kids that have to be taken care of and no family nearby to help us out if need be. So it was time to fill that fridge again.
It was quieter in the supermarket than last week. Despite the stricter social distancing rules, I actually didn’t have to wait to get inside and could just enter right away. But I was surprised to see so little protection inside the supermarket. There were no hand-sanitizers for clients, no masks worn by the staff, and only very few people from the staff had latex gloves on. I talked to my mom who lives in Lithuania and there everyone is asked to use hand sanitizer upon entering the shops. Some supermarkets are even giving everyone gloves and obliging people to use them. Here in Belgium – nothing. To give you an idea, there have been 4 corona-deaths in Lithuania up to now, compared to 220 in Belgium…
Anyway, I wore my own gloves, tried to stay away from others (which wasn’t easy as everyone seems to be heading for meat and fruit), and do my shopping as efficiently as I could. The cashier asked me to stand behind the newly drawn line about 2 meters from her and I stayed there until she scanned everything and loaded it into the shopping cart. After I paid, she disinfected the payment terminal. But that’s all they do here. At least for now…
Oh, and if you wonder – there was plenty of food in the supermarket and they even had some pasta, rice, and toilet paper again.
The corona crisis is getting worse by the day here in Belgium and so if I can, I’ll try to avoid going back to the shops for another 10 days or even two weeks. But, based on the current forecast, we’ll probably just be reaching the peak by then. There were 1298 new (tested) corona cases and 42 more people died in Belgium in the last 24 hours… And who knows how many more people actually have the virus, don’t know about it, and are infecting the others in the meantime…
And who says that I don’t have it, or you? There are so many reports from people who are really sick saying they had no idea when or how they caught the virus… All we can do is limit our direct social contacts to an absolute minimum for now. Stay safe, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 6235 infected, 220 dead.
Day 17 – March 27, 2020
Boris Johnson also has coronavirus
The news of the day – Boris Johnson also has coronavirus now. Sad consequences of herd immunity he was pleading for a few weeks ago… Let’s hope it’s just a mild case and he’s going to make through it alright. The last thing Brexit negotiations need is yet another prime minister in the UK…
And Italy just broke another sad record with 969 deaths in one day… Scary times.
I’ve been feeling all kinds of corona-like symptoms today too. Nothing serious, just a short cough, sneezing a few times, runny nose (and then it stops again), some back pain (and then it’s gone again, and back again)… Luckily no fever. These are all kinds of little things that we wouldn’t even notice under the normal circumstances…
My husband is coughing a bit as well and he says it’s all psychological. I guess it could well be with all the news around us or it’s just some spring allergy or so… On the other hand, why do we think that we would be spared while so many others get sick? Yes, we hardly go anywhere and I’ve only been to a supermarket twice since we are in quarantine and haven’t socialized with anyone else but my husband and kids for over two weeks… But it seems that you don’t need much and the virus is literally everywhere by now…
Oh, how much I wish life gets back to normal again!
In the meantime, the Belgian Government is about to hold a press conference. It’s expected that they’ll prolong the quarantine period with another month or so. And the schools will probably remain closed even after the Easter break…
Belgium coronavirus update: 7284 infected, 289 dead.
Day 18 – March 28, 2020
Quarantine in Belgium prolonged until April 19
As expected, the quarantine period in Belgium has been prolonged until at least April 19, but more likely it will be prolonged until May. I’m starting to wonder if kids will still be going to school this school year… Let’s hope they will.
We are all feeling much better today and I guess/hope all the little coughs and sneezes are indeed just spring-related… Everyone I talk to, is now more aware of their body than ever before…
The weather was so beautiful today that we spent hours and hours in the garden. Mind you, I didn’t do any work there. First, I went looking for worms and insects with my oldest son (his weekend project from school). We had to try to identify the insects that we found, count how many of which species we saw, and send the report online. Fun little project. But, again, I’m wondering how kids who live in an apartment do this…
Afterwards, my son helped me cook. Yesterday, he all of the sudden realized that he and his younger brothers wouldn’t be able to cook much if we were to get sick. So he felt the need to help me out and learn. Wonder how long that will last. But this is one of the few positive things in this sad situation – kids are definitely participating more in the daily household tasks than they ever did before.
After lunch, I sat in the garden with a coloring book that my husband bought for me years ago. Anti-stress coloring book for adults, travel-themed. Just what I needed now. That kept me busy for a while and, indeed, helped me clear my mind. Not that I don’t have anything better to do, but it’s really good to take a break once in a while. TIP: Amazon has plenty of great coloring books; here is a nice selection of travel-related coloring books for adults. Give it a try – it does wonders!
In the evening, we watched a movie with the kids – Hugo. Another great way to dream and forget reality. It’s a nice story and so beautifully filmed. Check it out – it’s also on Netflix.
But then, the movie was finished, and my husband switched on the news. Big mistake! They were just showing hundreds of coffins being brought to the cemetery by military trucks in Italy. Not one family member to say goodbye to their loved ones, no names, nothing. Who would have thought that anything like this would be possible in Western Europe in the 21st century… 🙁 Immediately after that, they showed images from Spain, where doctors were saying that more and more people in their 30s and 40s were dying every day… And then followed the heartbreaking situation in New York… These five minutes of reality were too much for me and I left the room as I couldn’t watch it any further… How did it ever get this far?!
Belgium coronavirus update: 9134 infected, 353 dead.
Day 19 – March 29, 2020
A much-needed regular Sunday
Today was probably the first ‘normal’ day since we are in quarantine. I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, watching TV with kids, coloring more in my travel coloring book that I rediscovered yesterday, going for a short walk, and doing all kinds of little things that I would do on a regular Sunday.
I also have a new blog post with tips for visiting Yellowstone in summer. I’m still hopeful that at least some kind of travel will be possible in a couple of months! What do you think?
It’s the best way to do this, guys – just make your daily routine as regular as possible and do something that you always do and enjoy doing. We’ll get through this tough time!
And to end this with a positive note, here are some really good tips on how to stay sane in this situation:
- Stick to a routine, sleep and eat regularly and follow a varied diet
- Dress as if you are leaving the house
- Get outside – even if just for a few minutes on your balcony
- Go for a short walk or do some sports inside the house
- Talk to others – call your friends and family, at least one call per day
- Be nice to others (also on social media!) and find a way to help someone
- Limit your time reading about COVID-19 on social media – there is so much disinformation out there! Today, I read that someone spread the message on FB stating that there was a University study that said that smoking helps against the virus. I can’t believe someone is doing this. They should really be punished – it can literally cost even more lives… 🙁
- Find some projects to keep you busy and start a long-time project that will take your mind off the current situation and give a sense of achievement once it’s done. Even if it’s just making a puzzle or learning a new skill.
- Do some repetitive work – knitting, coloring, painting. This really helps you forget everything else!
- Look for some way to relax – listen to some music, read a book, or watch a light movie (not Contagion, Virus, Outbreak or similar!). Humor can do wonders too – Youtube is full of funny cats videos!
- Remember that this is temporary and yes, this too shall be over!
Belgium coronavirus update: 10,836 infected, 431 dead.
Day 20 – March 30, 2020
Will schools reopen this school year?
Another ‘regular’ day today. The kids each had a video call with their teachers and school friends. All at different – but somewhat overlapping – times in the middle of the day. Which made having lunch a challenge… The kids have more going on than we do. 🙂
They also got lots of school work for this week. It’s the last week before the official Easter break and the teachers are probably trying to somewhat catch up with everything they still should learn this year. After that, the schools should resume, but the way it looks now, the chances are very slim… Nobody knows if the schools will even reopen this school year. That’s another 3 months of quarantine! Can’t even imagine…
The days are over before I know it. Between kids’ homework, cooking, baking (we baked some apple pastry today), and trying to get some work done, there is no time left to think about the big world problems… Which is probably better anyway.
The corona-situation here in Belgium seems to be turning in a somewhat more positive direction. But everyone realizes that it’s too early to say anything. And what will happen when quarantine is over? Won’t we get a second wave and all this effort will be for nothing?.. I’m trying not to think about it all. Just take it one day at a time.
Belgium coronavirus update: 11,899 infected, 513 dead.
Day 21 – March 31, 2020
12-year old girl dies of coronavirus in Belgium
Another surreal day today. It’s a sunny, beautiful day and sitting in your own home, it’s hard to imagine all the hardship in the world around us…
The saddest news of the day is the death of a 12-year old girl here in Belgium. They say it’s exceptionally rare for a child to die of coronavirus, yet it happened. When you yourself have kids that age, news like that hits really hard…
Today, I stumbled upon this short text from the speech of Pope Francis, and I really want to share it with you. I hope that you’ll find inspiration and comfort in these words…
“Tonight before falling asleep
think about when we will return to the street.
When we hug again,
when all the shopping together will seem like a party.
Let’s think about when the coffees will return to the bar, the small talk, the photos close to each other.
We think about when it will be all a memory but normality will seem an unexpected and beautiful gift.
We will love everything that has so far seemed futile to us.
Every second will be precious.
Swims at the sea, the sun until late, sunsets, toasts, laughter.
We will go back to laughing together.
Strength and courage.”
I spent my day finalizing a blog post about visiting Italy in November and it made me miss Italy so much. I have no idea how the situation will be and whether it will actually be possible to travel there this fall… But I think that Italy will need support and tourist money more than ever before. We already decided that – if it’s possible – we’ll be going to Italy either at the end of the summer or during our autumn school break. Take a look at this blog post – maybe it will inspire you to visit Italy as well!
Today, I’m also sharing a picture from one of our Italian trips. It makes me long for those careless days when we took it all for granted and dream of more amazing trips to come. As Pope Francis said, one day this will also be just a memory…
Belgium coronavirus update: 12,775 infected, 705 dead.
Day 22 – April 1, 2020
April Fool’s Day
A few days ago, I saw someone sharing a meme on Facebook that said something like ‘April Fool’s Day this year the government will tell us that all this was just a drill…’ If only…
I listened to the radio this morning and scanned the news quickly, but – at least here in Belgium – didn’t see any jokes in the media today. It’s a tough time and, as much as I believe that we need humor in order to get through this, I also didn’t feel like making many practical jokes with my family. We did, however, pull a few small pranks on the kids, in an effort to make life seem as normal as possible for them.
One of the teachers sent a message saying that she’s been contacted by the staff of the minister of healthcare asking for some videos of kids doing sports at home and that it would be used for a TV program. At first, our son actually believed it and thought he’d be on TV, but then a few minutes later he realized it was all but a joke. Nevertheless, we made a video of him jumping on a trampoline, then let him say to the teacher that he was actually his twin brother (and he also wore a sweater with the wrong name), and then say that maybe he actually was who he said he was (or maybe not), and then say ‘Happy Fool’s Day!’. It was just a little thing, but it made his day, thinking that he had fooled the teacher this way.
All the little things help to not think about everything else, don’t they?
I find that the kids are doing ok in quarantine, but I notice that our oldest (age 11) is much more worried and aware of the seriousness of the situation than his younger brothers. In the meantime, our twins (age 9) are just enjoying the long ‘vacation’ at home and are counting days till the Easter Bunny arrives… I hope that they keep it that way and just enjoy careless childhood as long as possible.
Belgium coronavirus update: 13,964 infected, 828 dead.
Day 23 – April 2, 2020
Belgium hits a sad record of 1,000 corona-deaths
Do you still know which day of the week it is? We’re mixing-up the days of the week all the time! Yesterday, we thought it was Tuesday, and today I was convinced it was Friday… It turns out, it’s actually Thursday. Tomorrow would have been the last day of kids’ school before the Easter break… I can’t believe that it’s been three weeks already, somehow it flew by for us…
Anyway, not much happened here today except playing Qwirkle with my kids – it was so long ago that we did it… Oh, and I am also starting to get a hang of homeschooling. It’s really tough to actually help all the three kids at the same time, so I’m taking them apart, one by one, and making sure that they understand their maths exercises.
Our youngest one somehow managed to get ALL his exercises completely correct which I found suspicious. It turns out, he found the answers that his teacher sent for us to check, and just copied everything… I can’t even get upset with him, he’s just one smart kid… 🙂 But that also meant that he had to redo everything while I was watching and now he finally starts to understand what he is doing and how it all works… Kids…
I haven’t even checked the news in Belgium today, but I heard from my husband that it’s getting worse by day. The biggest number of deaths so far, with a total hitting 1,000 (for 11mln people). It seems to me, when I compare it to Italy (60 mln people), that situation in Belgium is just as bad. Not in absolute numbers, but percentage-wise, and definitely taking into account that it started a few weeks later here and we were in quarantine rather fast…
The situation in the Netherlands and the UK seems to also be quite bad – both countries have serious issues with their healthcare systems not being able to handle that many patients at the same time… And the situation in the USA is rapidly turning into a nightmare as well… It’s hard to believe and scary when you realize that behind each and every number in the statistics there is a real person and so many devastated families left behind… 🙁
Stay safe and strong, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 15,348 infected, 1,011 dead.
Day 24 – April 3, 2020
Easter break starts
Are you still going somewhere, anywhere? I haven’t left our house or garden for quite a few days now. Not even to go for a walk. But today all our bread was finished and so it was time for a quick trip to a small supermarket nearby.
It was really quiet with hardly any people inside. The staff in the shop were wearing gloves and masks, but most of the other people I met didn’t have anything. Some had gloves on. In some countries, face masks are obligatory in the shops now, but here in Belgium, they remain for healthcare workers only.
I was so happy to see that all the bread was packaged in bags (normally freshly-baked bread is just laying there like that. For the rest, I didn’t notice anything different in the shop. Except for the prices. Not sure if it’s just this local supermarket, but everything was so much more expensive than normal. I paid over 2 euro for 2 bell peppers and 1,85 euro for a bag of chips kids asked me to bring… Next week, I’ll be going back to the big supermarket and I hope the prices haven’t increased there, but I can’t help but notice that food stores are profiting from this corona crisis…
Is it also noticeable where you live?
Belgium corona situation is about the same as yesterday – 132 new deaths and 1,422 new tested corona cases. They are hoping that we are reaching the peak, but nobody knows. It’s becoming more and more clear that quarantine will not be over in two weeks. They are starting to talk about how teachers should deal with giving lessons after the Easter break. Up to now, the kids were just getting some homework, but not really learning anything new. Our Minister of Education says that schools will have to try and actually start distance teaching if quarantine is extended. But it’s the teachers and the parents that somehow will have to make it happen… Just think of all those families with several kids and one computer at home, or maybe no computer at all…
Our kids are happy that it’s the last day of school and now a real ‘vacation’ starts. Two weeks of no homework or video calls. Don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy to take a break as well.
Belgium coronavirus update: 16,770 infected, 1,143 dead.
Day 25 – April 4, 2020
After all the physical problems, psychological problems will start
How are you?
We’re doing quite alright, taking into account that we haven’t left the house for 25 days now, except for a few very short walks, even fewer bike rides, and – if I count it correctly – four times we went grocery shopping… This week, I have been out of the house once.
Everyone in our family that we talked to today, was saying how hard it is to have to stay home. It’s especially tough for young people, living in small apartments, but also everybody else mentions this. Three weeks of quarantine starts to weigh hard on everyone… I guess it also has to do with the fact that it’s weekend and even people who work during the week, are now confined to their homes. Or maybe because it’s such beautiful spring weather here in Belgium that just invites to get out… Or simply because there seems to be no end to this…
Psychologists are starting to say that there will be more depressions and other mental issues as a consequence of this quarantine. But it’s no rocket science – it’s clear even to our kids who also say that ‘life is sad and boring’… Of course, it’s tough for everyone.
The message from our government is very clear however, ‘despite the beautiful weather, please stay home this weekend, please do not go to the coast, don’t organize garden parties with friends, and just please please stay home’. They keep on repeating it on the news on the radio every single hour, it’s on TV, on social media… When you hear it so many times, it starts to sound like propaganda. My memory of Soviet times is still too vivid, I suppose…
Even walks in the park are only allowed as long as you keep on walking. They have security and police patrolling parks in order to avoid that too many people gather somewhere… It feels as if we are all criminalized just for wanting to be outside… But I do understand, most people do, and so we stay home. The police here in Belgium is now issuing fines of 250 euro for every unnecessary trip that’s not in the immediate surroundings of your home. 250 euro per person and they can request that you pay immediately.
I want to end this with a really nice drawing our oldest son made for his teacher today. It’s an imaginary animal and somehow it makes me dream and reminds that there is the whole beautiful world out there for us and we are just hitting the pause button that will be released one day.
Keep on dreaming! Keep on hoping! And don’t let this quarantine crush you down!
Belgium coronavirus update: 18,431 infected, 1,283 dead.
Day 26 – April 5, 2020
We were supposed to be going to Spain today…
Today we were supposed to fly to Spain. But, as you all probably know, unnecessary travel is not allowed within the EU and many countries have closed their borders altogether. European borders are also closed for everyone coming from outside the EU. In other words – nobody is traveling.
Our flights got canceled, of course, but the airline is not reimbursing the money now. Instead, we are supposedly getting a voucher and a chance to rebook within a year. If we haven’t rebooked by then, we would still get our money after a year (if they don’t go bankrupt, thus these measures). We will definitely rebook, as soon as it’s safe to travel again!
We also had to cancel all our hotels and activities in Spain. Despite the fact that all our bookings were non-refundable, most hotels already reimbursed us. We are still waiting for three more and they all agreed to cancel for free. No choice for them or us – everything is closed in Spain. The good news is that the coronavirus situation seems to be getting somewhat more under control in Spain, in Italy, and also in France. But it’s far, far from over.
It’s similar here in Belgium too – the situation is getting somewhat better, but we are just (supposedly/hopefully) about reaching the peak. Today was the first day with fewer people hospitalized than people released from hospitals. Still, hundreds of new hospitalizations and 164 new deaths in one day… I still find it hard to believe these numbers from all over the world…
In the UK, the Queen addressed the nation in an unplanned speech – it’s only the 5th time she has ever done this in her long career… I think we all need powerful and hopeful messages these days, and hers was exactly that! ‘We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again!‘ she said.
In the meantime, we are staying home and enjoying the simple things in life: fantastic weather, bbq in the garden, and some Spritz to make us think we are on vacation… But – as my son just told me – it somehow doesn’t feel the same as a vacation… It certainly doesn’t, but we are trying to make the best of it. One day at a time…
Belgium coronavirus update: 19,691 infected, 1,447 dead.
Day 27 – April 6, 2020
How do working parents get anything done these days?!
We had a good day here today. Well, kind of. The kids refused to do any school work, because ‘it’s vacation’. But how do we keep them busy the whole day… In the end, we found a compromise that involves them doing one (side of) a page of maths exercises just to keep them somewhat in the learning mode. It literally took us longer to discuss it than for them to make those exercises…
We are also trying to read some informative books and learn something new each day too. For that, we are using some fantastic books by Lonely Planet Kids. We have The World Atlas, The Travel Book, The Flag Book and The Big World of Fun Facts. Oh, and the great collection of personal stories by kids from all over the world – This is My World – that our oldest son contributed to a few years ago. It’s like traveling from your own couch – perfect for these crazy times!
There is just one thing – our kids don’t speak English well enough to understand everything in those books, so it means that I have to read it with them… Luckily, the books are really fun and informative. Today we read a bit from ‘The Flag Book’ and so now I know everything about the flags used by pirates in the Golden Age of Piracy. We also learned so much about the meaning of the flags used by ships…
Having said all that, as much as it’s fun, it also means that we don’t get much done. It’s a constant struggle and choices. The only way we can get anything done for work is by letting the kids play on their tablets. Otherwise, they keep interrupting us every two minutes. It’s hard to even imagine or explain how many urgent reasons they come up with that just can’t wait… I’m sure any working parents can relate to this. My only luck is that I have no boss and no deadlines and that my husband spends as much time with the kids as I do… To all of you who do have bosses and deadlines or are single working parents, I can only say – you’re heroes for making it all work and staying sane!
And you know what’s worse? All those young and single people sharing their productivity tips on Facebook and boasting about how this is the most productive time they ever had… I have never been this unproductive in my life. No need to rub it in, you guys!
In the meantime, for some reason, stock markets seem to be euphoric about the corona situation getting better… All I can say is that I sure hope it will be better soon. For now, we just take one day at the time, thankful to be healthy, and keep on juggling everything as well as we possibly can…
Today, I am proud of myself for finishing a new blog post (that took me more than 4 days to write – thanks, kids!). Writing about travel is my way of keeping some sanity and dreaming about the better times. This new post is a guide to a beautiful place that we have previously overlooked when visiting Switzerland, but it turns out to be a real hidden gem – Schynige Platte. It’s well worth a trip (when the world gets back to normal again)! Check it out – I am sure that the pictures will let you forget the reality and take you on a journey to Switzerland, even if just for a short moment…
Belgium coronavirus update: 20,814 infected, 1,632 dead.
Day 28 – April 7, 2020
How accurate are those coronavirus numbers really?
Today, Belgium all of a sudden added 403 new corona deaths to the stats bringing the total number to 2,035. ‘Only’ 162 of those deaths are from the last 24 hours, the rest is something they forgot to count, somehow… Somehow it just makes the whole stats completely untrustworthy in my eyes. We shouldn’t be pointing at China saying they are lying about the numbers when it’s such a chaos here…
According to the stats, there are 2,000 deaths on a total of just over 22,000 cases in Belgium. Really?! That’s a mortality rate of almost 10%! Which makes it very clear that these numbers are way off. Especially the total number of corona cases. It seems that they aren’t testing enough, nobody knows who and when gets tested, and it’s even worse in how they measure everything…
I’m not sure how it’s in other countries, but e.g. based on stats, Germany has over 100,000 confirmed corona cases and just 1,700 deaths, which is not even a 2% mortality rate… So what’s going on in Belgium…
Do you still believe any of the stats? I am giving up on stats and news updates. Just hoping that the virus is slowing down, as they seem to imply.
Today I also saw a message from the BBC asking people to stop sharing messages that they don’t know are true. There is just so much misinformation everywhere and the sad reality is that it’s hard to know who to trust. Even the official sources can be so off…
Anyway, it’s been a beautiful sunny day here. And, following my husband’s recommendation, I didn’t try to juggle it all today. Instead, I took a book (haven’t read a novel in ages!), and spent a few quiet hours reading and enjoying the sunshine. Trying to make this feel a little bit like a staycation and not to think of what’s happening around us… I think, it’s the only way to stay sane… Just imagine you’re vacationing at home…
Belgium coronavirus update: 22,194 infected, 2,035 dead.
Day 29 – April 8, 2020
Lockdown in Wuhan is over, whereas Europe plans to prolong Schengen zone border closures
The big news today is that Wuhan, the city in China where the coronavirus started, has ended the lockdown today. In the meantime, there are more corona cases in most countries in Europe and many other places across the world… Even in Italy, where the situation was getting somewhat better, they have again recorded more new cases than in the previous days… The EU is starting to think of prolonging border closures till mid-May.
The economy is going in recession in so many countries and there are millions of people losing jobs daily. In the meantime, the Dow Jones index jumps over 700 points. They usually say that stock markets are ahead of time, but these days, it feels like they are just in some kind of a parallel reality… Or maybe they are right and all this will be over sooner than everyone thinks? Who knows…
Anyway, I had a big day today again – left the house to do grocery shopping. It always feels like a huge event and going shopping is like heading into a war zone… They had more and stricter rules than two weeks ago. Each shopping cart is being disinfected and they installed plastic ‘windows’ at the payment terminals. Oh, and there is also a new rule that obliges you to hold your cart while shopping. I left mine for a minute to quickly get something in the next row and got a remark – there was nobody anywhere near me, except the staff. This is really going (too) far…
I guess it has to do with the upcoming Easter weekend, but it was really busy everywhere – lots of cars in the streets, people everywhere, a long queue to enter the supermarket… You’d almost think that life is back to normal again.
I was actually really surprised to see the streets so busy. We are sitting at home and I always think that everyone else does too, but no. My parents-in-law who live in the center of a rather big town with windows overlooking the main town square said that there was an ice cream place open today and there were crowds of people queuing there for ice cream the whole day… I’m afraid that everyone is tired of staying home and starts to relax a bit more. The weather is nice, people are in a vacation mood with Easter approaching, and it’s so easy to forget how serious this is… To forget why we are all ‘vacationing’ at home…
But we are not going anywhere and are quite happy with our staycation. It was 25°C today (77°F) – exceptional weather for this time of the year here in Belgium. We spent half the day outside and organized our own little bbq party in the garden. Just trying to make the best of these crazy times. And I hope you are too!
Belgium coronavirus update: 23,403 infected, 2,240 dead.
Day 30 – April 9, 2020
More corona-deaths, but fewer people in the Belgian hospitals
Day 30 of this coronavirus diary… 30 days… I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since this started. The way it looks now, we’ll need another 30 days for the situation to get somewhat better… But who knows… Let’s just hope it gets better soon.
I haven’t read the news today. I find that it helps to not have corona-news overload… The little news I heard on the radio gave mixed signals – we have 283 new deaths in Belgium (one of the highest numbers so far), but there are fewer new cases. They say it’s good news… It’s just hard not to think of every person and every family behind those numbers…
In the meantime, we are taking it one day at a time and – probably for the first time ever – are not making any future plans. We had to change so many plans by now that it just doesn’t seem to make any sense to plan something new. At the same time, we are so looking forward to being able to travel again! Even my husband who loves being home is really looking forward to our summer trip to Norway. If we can travel by then… Fingers crossed! We are almost afraid to think about it because the disappointment will be even bigger if we have to cancel that trip as well…
And if and when can travel, I think we’ll book a few extra last-minute getaways as well. I’m just day-dreaming here… But yes, if we can, we are going to the mountains! And talking about the mountains, I have finished another blog post about hiking at Schynige Platte – one of our newly-discovered amazing places in Switzerland. Can’t wait to return!
Our day was similar to all the others, except that I took one of the kids biking. I just felt that he needed some ‘alone’ time, without his brothers… And it was good for me as well, to have some private time with him. It’s really hard to give individual attention to each kid when you have three of them and we are all confined to the house 24/7 for over three weeks…
Belgium coronavirus update: 24,983 infected, 2,523 dead (283 in a day).
Day 31 – April 10, 2020
It’s Easter weekend – try to make it as normal as possible!
Oh, the little pleasures in life… My husband brought freshly-baked bread from a baker and it made my day… It’s sooooo good!
And I really needed the little things to cheer me up, because last night and this morning I was feeling really down. That’s what happens when I watch the news or read too many articles shared on Facebook. Thousands of deaths everywhere in the world, all kind of Doomsday scenarios, and talks about life not getting back to normal any time soon…
Today I even saw an article that said something like ‘travel might not be possible till 2023’. I wish that people would stop writing click-bait titles for articles that don’t resemble much and are not based on any scientific research… And I wish that others would stop sharing all that nonsense on social media… As I said a few days ago, there is so much misinformation…
On the lighter note, we have ordered some toys for kids on Amazon over two weeks ago. It was supposed to be for Easter. Still didn’t receive them. Amazon says that the delivery of all non-essential items might be delayed. It looks like it won’t be arriving for at least another week or 10 days… Whoever classified kids’ toys as non-essential items at Amazon, clearly have no kids in quarantine… 🙂
And talking about kids, I am taking a break from my computer/TV/radio over the Easter weekend and will try to spend some quality time with the family. So unless something significant happens, I’m not going to be updating this diary till after Easter. I hope that you all have a great weekend with your loved ones, go chocolate-egg hunting in your homes or gardens, and try to make this Easter as normal as possible.
Stay safe and please stay home! We have to sacrifice our Easter in the hopes of saving our summer. This will be over, but we all have to do our best!
Belgium coronavirus update: 26,667 infected, 3,019 dead (325 in a day + 171 cases they ‘found’ from the end of March). It seems that Belgium is doing as much as possible to track ALL the corona deaths, but since every country is doing it differently, it’s impossible to compare anything… Most other countries only count hospital deaths.
Day 35 – April 14, 2020
The curve is flattening in Belgium
Hi again! I hope you had a nice and quiet Easter weekend. Under the circumstances, ours was quite good. We wore some nice clothes for two days in a row, organized a small family photoshoot in the garden, baked a cheesecake, drank champagne, and the kids went hunting for Easter eggs… We did video calls with family, played some board games, went for a few short walks, and spent hours and hours sitting in the garden and enjoying the beautiful weather… Almost a regular weekend…
Except – we didn’t manage to completely ignore the news. There’s still so much uncertainty, so many conflicting messages, and so many people not respecting the measures and making it all so much harder to control. 🙁
To give you an idea, this weekend, Belgian police had to issue almost 30,000 fines for people who were not obeying the rules – garden parties, driving around to see friends and there was even a protest against the police with about 100 people marching… Come on, people, just stay home!
Is it because people are getting tired of quarantine, or because it’s Easter, or somehow we think that it’s getting better and we can relax… We too are getting tired of this uncertainty, but as hard as it is, the reality is that we are privileged to be able to stay home while so many others are working day and night to fight this virus…
I’m also starting to fear that our summer will be impacted by this and our travel plans to Norway might have to be canceled. But what worries me more is the fact that we’re all at risk of getting this virus sooner or later. I mean, the schools won’t be closed forever, the shops will probably reopen in a few weeks, and then it’s just a matter of time when you run into someone who has the virus… And even if we decide to self-isolate, we’ll have to let the kids go to school, and we all know how quickly they bring all kinds of viruses home…
I feel like we are all going through this emotional roller-coaster. One moment it all looks somewhat more promising and the other – very gloomy and sad. What really helps me through all of this is doing what I like. In my case, it’s writing about travel. I just published one more article from our trip to Switzerland – a guide to visiting the First Cliff Walk in Grindelwald. I hope that you all have something that you really enjoy doing and can do in quarantine! It’s the best way to spend your time and the day is over before you know it…
The coronavirus situation in Belgium is getting a bit better. That just basically means that the ‘curve’ has been flat for a few days now and it’s starting to slowly bend downwards. However, there are still hundreds of deaths every single day and hundreds of families losing their loved ones without even being able to say good-bye… It’s heart-breaking!
Belgium coronavirus update: 31,119 infected, 4,157 dead.
Day 36 – April 15, 2020
Quarantine in Belgium is prolonged until the 3rd of May
Today the National Security Council decided to prolong the current quarantine measures in Belgium for another two weeks. This was expected and it seems that they’re hoping to reopen some things after that. For now, in addition to food stores and pharmacies, garden centers and stores selling building materials and similar are allowed to reopen.
They also decided to cancel all the summer events and festivals until the end of August. That means that popular festivals such as Tomorrowland or Rock Werchter that attract thousands of people from all over the world are canceled for 2020… They still didn’t decide anything about summer travel or reopening of the borders, but it sure doesn’t look promising…
The schools are remaining closed for now and we just got messages from the kids’ teachers that we have to go to school to pick up some new books for maths. Starting from next week, Easter break is finished, and it means that we’ll be homeschooling again… I’m so not looking forward to it as it basically means that my husband and I don’t get much done. New lessons for three kids, in combination with video calls at various hours during the day, leave us running from one kid to another the whole time…
Luckily, amidst all of this, we are still happy to be healthy and safe at home. Although my throat has been aching for two days in a row again and it’s not a fun feeling to have these days…
But I’m trying to concentrate on the positive, do the things I enjoy, and keep on building my blog for future travel that will resume one day. I realize it more than ever now that this blog is still my passion project and I love doing what I do despite the fact that the business I’ve built over 4 years has been demolished by this corona-bulldozer. But we’ll rise again and I hope that all the small businesses that are struggling right now will persevere too. Each day, we’re one day closer to the new beginning!
Belgium coronavirus update: 33,573 infected, 4,440 dead.
Day 37 – April 16, 2020
They say we’ll have to wear face masks soon while at the same time telling us they aren’t helping…
This morning, I took one of the kids and drove to school in order to pick up some books they’ll need when distance education restarts next week. It was surreal to see the school so empty… How will it look like when kids return to school? Will they have to wear face masks? Social distancing isn’t really an option in most classrooms, unfortunately…
And talking about face masks, it’s all over the news here in Belgium and also in the Netherlands today. They say that wearing a facial mask will become the new normal. At the same time, they also did studies in the Netherlands that show that most facial masks are actually pretty useless and social distancing is still the only way to somewhat control the further spread of this new coronavirus…
The message we are hearing here in Belgium today is that social distancing and living at 1,5 m (6ft) from each other is our future. Not just for a few weeks, but for a very long time… I just can’t imagine what will our lives look like… How do you keep social distance on a bus or a train, on a plane? How do you watch a theater performance or a sports game? How will the kids do this at school???…
The sad reality is that nobody really knows what the future brings. We’re all just living from day to day, adjusting our lifestyle along the way. The worrying thing is that all the stats are so different in every country that it’s impossible to see the complete magnitude of this. Also, some corona tests seem to give false results and they say now that most people who had corona seem to not have built up any immunity, which would mean they can get it again… But nobody knows if this is true…
That’s what makes this situation so hard for everyone. The uncertainty about it all…
I wonder what kind of messages you hear in the news in other countries? Here in Europe, most news channels seem to report very similar information, but every country is dealing with this somewhat differently. Also, the way they count corona cases and deaths in every country is so different.
We have 417 new deaths in Belgium in the last 24 hours… But here they count all of them, whereas in the Netherlands or in the UK, they only count confirmed corona deaths in hospitals… That could explain why Belgium has a 13,95 % mortality rate on confirmed corona cases, whereas our neighboring countries are showing numbers that are a fraction of this… Next year we’ll see the stats of 2020 and will probably find out that nobody seems to have died of any other causes in Belgium this spring… Sorry for my sarcasm, but it’s just the way it is and I’m trying to make sense of the numbers…
Belgium coronavirus update: 34,809 infected, 4,857 dead
Day 38 – April 17, 2020
There is a new ‘promising’ medicine that could help against the coronavirus…
This morning I woke up to some upsetting news on the Belgian radio. It was not so much what they said, but how they said it. It was a message about our summer holidays and filled with words ‘possibly’ and ‘likely’ and ‘maybe’ and it ruined my whole day. How can a national radio say things that are not confirmed in any way???
Their message and the way they say it has a huge influence on how people feel and deal with the quarantine. To give you an idea – one of the messages said that ‘now that Italy, France, and Spain may not be letting Belgians in’, we might have to stay at home. And then there was some populist mayor of one of the coastal towns who proclaimed that Belgian coast will likely only be accessible to people who either live there or have a vacation house and pay taxes there…
Just imagine those families with kids who are stuck in a small apartment for months having to hear things like that. I’d rather have that they would stop saying anything that is not confirmed or certain. What’s the point? Except for getting the headlines and making everyone upset and even more depressed…
Anyway, after this nonsense that is not worthy of national radio, my husband said that there is good news from the US. Gilead Sciences say that their new medicine, Remdesivir, is showing very promising results in curing people with the coronavirus (more info here). While this is still something for the future, there is finally some hope that we’ll not have to live with this forever… Fingers crossed!
I spent the whole day working on the blog (check out our latest article about Bachalpsee Lake in Switzerland!) and also sent out a newsletter. You can see our latest newsletter here and here you can subscribe to our newsletter if you like getting some travel inspiration in your mailbox once in a while.
I didn’t even find the time to answer those of you who have left comments on the blog in the last few days. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences and asking questions for future trips. I love hearing from all of you and will get back to each and every one of you later. Now, it’s time to switch off my computer and start a weekend!
Hope you all have a great weekend! Stay home and stay safe!
Belgium coronavirus update: 36,138 infected, 5,163 dead
Day 39 – April 18, 2020
100,000 corona deaths in Europe
Today, we reached a sad record of 100,000 coronavirus deaths in Europe. Knowing that most countries only count hospital deaths, it’s likely that this number is much higher… It’s a sad day.
And just today I was determined not to read the news and try to write something a bit more positive… So I’ll keep it short with a few things that made us smile today.
First, it rained today for the first time since we’re in quarantine. Never thought we’d be excited to see rain… in Belgium. And the reason we’re happy is that we have quite some new plants and new grass in the garden, so it meant that for the first time in weeks we didn’t have to water the plants. If you know that Belgium is kind of a country where it always rains (or it used to), you know how absurd this situation actually is…
Anyway, more sunshine is promised for next week and that’s another reason to smile. We don’t really need more rain and rather spend our days outside in the garden than at home in front of a TV the whole day…
Another reason to smile is that my husband baked waffles today. He has a secret recipe with the Belgian Trappist beer in the dough and those waffles are so delicious… Despite the fact that we live in Belgium and everyone thinks we eat Belgian waffles for breakfast each day, it’s actually quite a rare occasion for us to bake waffles. And we never really eat them for breakfast. Usually, in the afternoon, actually… I’m not going to check my weight tomorrow, but today was a happy day with much too many waffles.
So here you go, I managed to steer clear from politics and tough topics today. It’s weekend, after all, and we have so much to be happy and grateful for. Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
Belgium coronavirus update: 37,183 infected, 5,453 dead
Day 40 – April 19, 2020
The curve in Belgium is finally bending downwards
It’s Sunday and somehow by the time I got to this diary, it’s almost midnight already… So I’ll keep this short.
There was something I wanted to share with you today – a beautiful version of ‘The Prayer’ performed by Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Lang Lang, and John Legend for the ‘One World: Together At Home’ event yesterday. I didn’t watch the entire 8 hours of this unique concert, but this was one of the best and most moving songs that I heard. Check it out!
Other than that, we had a quiet day and I didn’t check the news once. Just now, I looked up the stats and the corona-curve here in Belgium is finally clearly bending down. But it’s still a long way…
Belgium coronavirus update: 38,496 infected, 5,683 dead
Day 41 – April 20, 2020
Homeschooling restarts and… this diary is going into MOM archive
What a day!
This morning I woke up to the news that the president of Brazil is protesting against the anti-corona measures in his own country… while coughing and marching on the streets among hundreds of people… Just a week ago, he was shaking hands with everyone around him to show that he’s not scared of the virus… How is that even possible?! For a head of state to support protests against their own policies… I guess we can expect a huge peak in COVID-19 cases in Brazil soon, president included…
Another crazy thing happened today. Memory of Mankind contacted me asking if they can store this diary. They said that the official COVID-19 facts will be kept anyway, but the individual experiences will vanish within decades. And they want to keep some of those individual experiences too.
Memory of Mankind is an archive whose goal is to preserve the knowledge about present human civilization for future generations. Information is printed on ceramic tablets, then stored deep inside the oldest salt mine in Hallstatt in the Austrian Alps. I never imagined that someone would still be reading our blog in 100 or 200 years from now, but it seems that now a small part of it will be kept forever. How crazy is that…
Easter school break is over today and kids have started homeschooling again. I understood that our Minister of Education has asked teachers to give about 4 hours of lessons per day, but our kids’ teachers sent their tasks for the week and it’s probably less than 4 hours in total. It seems that so much depends on the school and on the teacher, but all our kids were done with their homework in less than an hour with half of the week’s tasks completed… And to make things worse, online platforms that kids can use for extra exercises crashed this morning…
The Minister also said that parents should not be required to help kids for more than 2 hours per week, but we’re close to that limit in one day. The twins both had emotional meltdowns when they first saw the tasks and had ‘no idea what it’s about or where to start’. We had to take them each apart and go through everything together.
Luckily, our 11-year old is handling this much better. It’s clear that younger kids just can’t be expected to work independently and this homeschooling project can only succeed if the teachers would actually give lessons online (none of our kids’ teachers are doing this) or if the parents take the role of a teacher. Which, with three kids at home, means 2 hours homeschooling per day rather than per week. And that’s with that little bit of tasks they have to do…
In between all this, cooking, and doing grocery shopping this morning, it was past 3 PM by the time I finally found some time to do some work myself. Once again, I just can’t imagine how people with bosses and deadlines and young kids at home are juggling everything… With no end in sight… Stay strong, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 39,983 infected, 5,828 dead (‘only’ 168 today)
Day 42 – April 21, 2020
What happened to Kim Jong-un? Oil prices plummet. Oktoberfest is canceled
The news of the day is – probably – not corona-related. The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hasn’t been seen in public for over 10 days and rumor has it that he’s in critical condition after heart surgery. Some sources even say that he’s brain-dead, but North Korea is – as usual – not communicating. So the mystery remains…
Other big news was that the price of crude oil in the U.S. went under $0 yesterday, which basically means that buyers are getting paid to buy and store it. With cruise ships and airplanes stranded and people staying home, there is very little demand for oil right now. One of the silver linings of the corona crisis is that this is having a very positive impact on our planet.
Germany announced today that there will be no Oktoberfest this year. There are big fears of the second wave of the coronavirus in the fall and so they already decided now to cancel it… This takes away my hopes that life will get back to normal any time soon. It seems that the whole of 2020 will go in history as annus horribilis…
Somehow I still have a tiny bit of hope for our summer vacation in Norway, but I realize now that the chances we can go are getting smaller by day… And we’re still waiting for quite a few refunds from our trip to Spain… And should be getting vouchers to rebook our flights. But when will it be safe to travel again? In the fall? At Christmas? Next spring? What do you think?
Belgium coronavirus update: 40,956 infected, 5,998 dead
Day 43 – April 22, 2020
Schools in Belgium ‘might’ partially restart on May 15
Today, my mom was supposed to come over from Lithuania to visit us and go and see the tulip fields in the Netherlands with me. We knew for a while that this was not going to happen, but she was really sad today. Me too. Let’s hope I can take her to see the tulips next year. And let’s hope she can come to visit us sooner than that…
We are finally starting to hear some news about the potential reopening of the schools in Belgium. And the news isn’t promising at all. Nothing is decided yet, but the plan is to start the schools on the 15th of May for the 1st, 2nd, and 6th grade of the lower school and the senior year of the high school. With a maximum of 10 kids per class and just a few days a week, depending on the age of the kids. That would basically mean that our twins wouldn’t be going to school yet and our oldest would get lessons for 2 days (or 4 half days) per week…
As I said, nothing is decided yet and every school would have to see how they solve the social distancing problem and avoid kids from different groups interacting with each other. But this, in any case, means that kids will be home for at least another 3 weeks now, plus that the twins might not be going back to school this school year at all…
Before we know it, our quarantine that started on March 14 will be extended till September 1 or even longer… I don’t know why I still somehow dream of being able to have a somewhat normal summer, but it seems that the government is just doing this step by step in order not to demotivate us all completely.
The reality might be that we’ll be in this situation for many months to come, but nobody wants to say it out loud… Or it might also mean that nobody knows what the future brings and are just taking it a few weeks at a time in this unprecedented situation…
Are the schools open where you are? Will they be opening this school year?
Belgium coronavirus update: 41,889 infected, 6,262 dead
Day 44 – April 23, 2020
Why does Belgium have the highest coronavirus mortality rate in the world?
Belgium is all over the news these days. Our tiny country seems to have the highest rate of corona deaths per capita in the world – 548.24 deaths per 1 mln inhabitants. This is all related to the fact that Belgium counts ALL coronavirus deaths – in hospitals, in nursing homes, and even if they are just suspected corona cases that haven’t been tested. Whereas most other countries only county confirmed corona deaths and only those that occurred in hospitals.
This is once again the proof that you can prove whatever you want with statistics. However, it also means that people who don’t look deeper, now consider Belgium the most dangerous country in the world for coronavirus. So if there are any chances of any borders opening up for travel this summer, I’m afraid that overly honest Belgians will be considered persona non grata. Here goes my hope for our Norway trip…
Let’s just hope that the officials taking decisions look deeper than the surface. But that’s not usually how politics works. President Trump eagerly used Belgium as an example when trying to convince the Americans that he has it all under control with ‘just’ 142.78 deaths per million… It’s all politics…
Another number everyone is talking about in Belgium today is the crowd immunity. Recent tests show that Belgium has just about 3% immunity against the coronavirus and this number is similar in other countries. Even Sweden that doesn’t believe in quarantine only has 10% immunity, which is far away from the 50-70% that is needed in order to create herd immunity and stop the virus. We’ll all just have to hope there is a new vaccine soon…
Belgium coronavirus update: 42,797 infected (tested cases), 6,490 dead (including suspected and unconfirmed cases)
Day 45 – April 24, 2020
Oxford is testing a new COVID-19 vaccine on people
The news of the day is that the University of Oxford has begun testing a new COVID-19 vaccine on people. Normally, it would take months before this is allowed. But exceptional times require an exceptional response. Fingers crossed!
It’s Friday and we’re ready for a weekend. Especially my husband who’s been taking care of all the homework kids had to do. Everything for the lower school gets sent in via the parents, we have to upload tasks, watch videos with kids, and review their work. Plus, we get work from kids music schools, with videos to watch, practice, videos to upload for teachers to review… If you have three kids as we do, it’s more work for parents than children. 2 hours a week, they said, what a joke… It’s been 2-3 hours a day.
I have been working a lot on the blog this week too. So many ideas of things to write about. I’m loving what I do and it’s the best job in the world, even if it’s hardly making any money right now. A great way to forget everything and dream about the better days…
But you know what upsets me the most is that I get so many emails from tourism companies who are asking me to work for free because the times are hard and their business is suffering. Well, my business is suffering too. And if there is one thing small businesses can’t afford now is working for free. It’s already a challenge to combine work with kids’ homeschooling and a huge financial hit. Why would I want to sacrifice my family time to help some random tour, luggage, or transport companies that I never even heard of…
Sorry for the rant. And talking about family time, it’s time to switch off the computer. Friday night is movie night here!
Tomorrow, I’ll have some news about the new – more flexible – quarantine rules in Belgium. National Security Council is expected to present their new re-opening plan tonight. It’s not likely that a lot will change before mid-May, but it seems that even after that, we’re still looking at a long period of quarantine and uncertainty…
Have a nice weekend, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 44,293 infected, 6,679 dead
Day 46 – April 25, 2020
Belgium will slowly start relaxing quarantine measures in May
Belgium is slowly planning to reopen. SLOWLY. Yesterday evening, the government announced a new plan. It’s a very gradual process and it can be changed back if things don’t go as planned.
Here are some of the main points from the new plan:
- 4 May: businesses restart (but people who can work from home, should continue to do that), facial masks are obligatory when using public transport.
- 11 May: all the shops can reopen (social distancing rules have to be followed).
- 18 May (15 May in Flanders): schools are partially reopening for the 1st, 2nd, and 6th grades of lower school and the 6th grade of high school. Maximum 10 kids per class. Teachers and kids above 12 have to wear face masks.
- MAYBE from May 18 (not confirmed yet): family visits, more people allowed for funerals and weddings, museums and hairdressers reopen, and day trips within Belgium might be possible.
- At the earliest from 6 June (not confirmed yet): reopening of cafes and restaurants, multi-day trips in Belgium and abroad might be possible.
As you can see, this is a very careful and gradual plan with lots of uncertainties. We are asked once again to stay home and be patient, in hopes to be able to enjoy life to the fullest later (hopefully this summer?).
In the meantime, I have a new article on the blog, with some dreamy travel inspiration for the fall – Best American National Parks to Visit in September. Check it out!
Belgium coronavirus update: 45,325 infected, 6,917 dead
Day 47 – April 26, 2020
So much uncertainty
After the somewhat positive news of yesterday, more explanation followed today. All the measures that are now foreseen for May will only become reality if the number of new corona-related hospitalizations will go down significantly.
At the moment, we have about 200 new hospitalizations daily in Belgium. It was about 400-500 and even around 600 during the peak. The expectation is that this number has to be much lower than 100 for the government to ‘relax’ the quarantine somewhat further. We’re not there yet…
There was also a discussion about summer vacation on TV today. Belgium is a small country with over 11mln people. If we aren’t allowed to travel abroad, what will that mean for the Belgian coast, local pools, Belgian Ardennes (a hilly area in the south of the country, where we have some nice forests and rivers – a popular vacation destination in Belgium)? Everyone understands that it’s impossible to have 11mln people vacationing here… But nobody knows which countries will reopen their borders and what will be possible…
It seems that many countries are hoping to ‘reopen’ by July, but there are so many virologists saying that it’s not going to happen. Everyone is looking at the numbers and at what other countries are doing. Up to now, only Austria reopened their German and Swiss borders (their main markets for incoming tourism). All the other countries are waiting… We’re waiting too. And hoping…
Our Sunday was quiet and all the days seem so similar to the previous ones. I spent most of the day working in the garden and now feel all the muscles I didn’t even know I had… 🙂
Belgium coronavirus update: 46,134 infected, 7,094 dead
Day 48 – April 27, 2020
The topic of the day is how will everyone get face masks in time for ‘reopening’ here in Belgium. TV, newspapers – everywhere you can find explanations on how to make your own face masks. Except that not everyone (hardly anyone) has a sewing machine, let alone suitable cloth…
Some local websites saw business opportunities and are selling ‘sewing kits’ with all kinds of ‘cool’ patterns for parents to make face masks for kids who have to go back to school in a few weeks… In the meantime, the government promised that every Belgian resident will get a face mask, but now they realize that they have no idea how to actually make it happen in time…
We’re lucky that my mom who lives in Lithuania sent us some face masks a few weeks ago. There, you can still buy them in local pharmacies (at a ridiculously high price, but still). Whereas here in Belgium, it seems to be an impossible task… It’s crazy how it can be so different from one country to another…
But now the real question. Did you try wearing one of those self-made masks for more than half an hour? I haven’t tried a surgical mask yet, but the simple cotton ones make it so hard to breathe and on a warm day they leave you breathless in no time… I guess you get used to it after a while, but I see so many people wearing masks the wrong way, taking them off and putting them back on again, wearing them only over their mouth, but not the nose… A mask that’s not used properly kind of loses its purpose and potentially puts you at risk even more… But the idea is good and if we all learn how to properly use the masks, they should help to contain the spread of this coronavirus.
However, I still have to see Flemish people actually start wearing the masks. It seems that the French-speaking part of the country has no problems with it, but here in Flanders face masks are just not ‘in’ yet. It never ceases to amaze me how this little country is so divided in every possible way. Going back to school – Flanders is starting a few days earlier than Wallonia. It seems that Walloons would have rather kept the schools shut altogether… Face masks – Walloons are wearing them for weeks already, whereas Flemish people will wait till they are forced by law… It’s like two different countries in one, yet somehow they manage to make it work…
Belgium coronavirus update: 46,687 infected, 7,207 dead
Day 49 – April 28, 2020
Number of new corona-hospitalizations is finally getting close to 100 per day
I had to do some grocery shopping again and decided to try wearing a face mask in the supermarket. It’s not obligatory yet, but we’ll just have to get used to it. For the first time since this started, all the personnel in the supermarket were wearing face masks as well. In a way, it’s a comforting feeling and will definitely get more common when everybody will have a mask.
Luckily, the weather got somewhat cooler here since a few days and so it wasn’t too hot with a face mask. But I’m still trying to imagine how it will be in the summer…
And talking about the weather, we are so happy to finally have some rain here in Belgium. Everything is so dry and nature reserve nearby has gotten so dry that there was a significant fire danger. A similar place not too far away was burning last week, so we are excited to see rain on the forecast for the next days. How crazy is that – we are happy to see rain in Belgium. It’s like the world is upside down this year…
For the first time in weeks, there were just over 120 new patients in Belgian hospitals yesterday and also today. That’s still a lot, of course, but we’re slowly bending the curve further down and there is more hope that things will reopen as planned. More and more countries around us are also slowly relaxing their quarantine rules, but everyone is overly cautious to not go too fast.
Up to now, the only country that is clearly planning to reopen their borders and hotels for tourists is Austria. From what I heard, the hotels in Austria are set to open at the end of May. I’m really wondering when/how the other countries will follow and what will that mean for this summer… We are not the only ones with a trip booked for this summer and not sure if we’ll be able to travel. For now, we have 0 expectations, so if it happens, we’ll consider it a small miracle. And if it doesn’t, I sure hope we can postpone and rebook everything for next summer.
Belgium coronavirus update: 47,334 infected, 7,331 dead
P.S. I decided not to post daily pictures anymore because this article is getting so long and so heavy that my computer seems to have difficulties handling it in editor mode. I might post a new picture once in a while, but I wouldn’t want this article to freeze when you’re reading it, so will try to keep it ‘lighter’.
Day 50 – April 29, 2020
Germany advises against international travel at least until June 14
Day 50. I can’t believe it. It seems as if I started this diary just recently… I guess it’s not the same for everyone who’s stuck at home, but for me, it seems that the time is flying… I guess it’s better this way. No time to worry about everything too much and it’s the best way for me to get through this.
The news here in Belgium is still all about the face masks. Fashion brands seem to be ‘jumping’ on this new business opportunity and face masks are set to be the new accessories of 2020. It’s funny that you first need to have a mask in order to go to the shops where you could potentially buy some. But I can just imagine the big demand for this when the stores reopen here in a few weeks. I’d certainly love to buy some fancier-looking models for me and the kids…
Another hot topic of the day is the suffering of the aviation industry. The impact is huge with so many big companies laying off thousands of people… Businesses small and big are really suffering and I often wonder how the travel industry will look like when this storm is over.
Germany advises against international travel at least until June 14 and France is apparently thinking of keeping their borders shut during the summer. There were similar rumors about Spain as well. But Spain and Italy and so many other countries desperately need tourism money, so these decisions will certainly not be taken lightly. I’ve stopped worrying about our summer vacation as there is really nothing that we can do. Just sit and wait. There are worse things in life than a few canceled trips…
The good news today is that also a German company related to Pfizer is testing a new vaccine already. If it works out, they say it could be ready at the end of the year… So many people are working on this, I’m sure they’ll find something. It’s just a matter of time. But how will our world have changed in the meantime… Let’s hope for the better.
Belgium coronavirus update: 47,859 infected, 7,501 dead
Day 51 – April 30, 2020
The lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths in Belgium since March
Today, Belgium recorded the lowest number of corona deaths since March. 111 in one day they say, but comparing the numbers to yesterday, I only count 93… So, again, something is not right with the numbers… But the curve is going down, so there’s hope. Again, more than half of deaths occurred in nursing homes, which have been hit really hard here in Belgium.
I also read today that there are about 120 COVID-19 vaccines in the making worldwide at the moment, in different stages of progress. A few of those vaccines are being tested on people, but they think that the virus is already getting too weak to be able to see somewhat reliable results… Let’s hope it gets so weak that it just disappears one day, but maybe I’m too naive. So many specialists are fearing the second wave, and maybe also the third… Fingers crossed the vaccines will be ready by then…
This morning we received an email from one of our hotels in Norway asking to confirm if we’ll be arriving. Just how in the world are we supposed to know that… I told them that it will depend on the airlines and on our countries whether we’ll be able to travel in July or not. I wonder why they ask – are they getting more local demand and want to sell the rooms to locals?
There’s so much uncertainty for everyone – from airlines to hotels and individual travelers like us… We just hope that we know where we stand at least a month before the trip, but again, I might be too naive. Nobody knows how the situation will be in a month or two from now and nobody dares to make those decisions yet…
Belgium coronavirus update: 48,519 infected, 7,594 dead
Day 52 – May 1, 2020
Lufthansa is preparing for a summer with no flights…
And just like that, it’s May. The big news here today is that Lufthansa, one of the biggest airlines in Europe, thinks that it will have to keep its planes on the ground at least until fall.
I think it’s indeed quite a realistic scenario. But I just wish that governments would be more upfront about summer travel as well. I think we all need some certainty now, no matter what the news is. But it seems that our governments prefer to ‘dose’ the bad news, postponing all the decisions as long as they possibly can… I understand why they do it and I can appreciate that nobody knows how to deal with this extraordinary situation. But the uncertainty about everything is becoming really tough for everyone.
They also keep on talking about the new vaccines, while forgetting to say that even in the very best-case scenario, it will take a very long time before vaccines will be available to everybody. An average Joe will not be getting vaccinated any time soon, probably not even in a year from now…
Somehow, in all this madness, it feels like our life is almost as normal as it can be. Except for the fact that kids are not going to school, not much has changed. It’s like an endless holiday at home… All in all, we can’t complain. But boy, I can’t wait to be able to travel again! I hope that we can get out of the house soon and, hopefully, visit the mountains in Switzerland or Italy later this summer… I keep on dreaming and that’s what keeps me going.
If you’re also dreaming about traveling later this year, check out our recent posts with travel inspiration for September, October, and November. It’s good to dream and we all need it these days. Take care!
Belgium coronavirus update: 49,032 infected, 7,703 dead
Day 53 – May 2, 2020
More flexibility for recreational activities and corona-leave for parents of kids under 12
Corona-numbers are going down further here in Belgium. And so from Monday, all the businesses are supposedly restarting. Not the shops yet – they are scheduled to reopen a week later.
All this, however, means that many people will have to get back to work while the children are at home. So the government now announced ‘corona parenthood leave’ that makes it possible for the parents who have kids under 12 to take a leave until the end of June. There are all kinds of rules and exceptions and your employer has to agree with it, but this should at least help some parents… Schools are obliged to arrange daycare for the other children whose parents have no choice but go to work…
Another change is that from Monday on we are allowed to take a car to a nearby place for sports or recreational activities. Day trips far from home are not allowed, but at least now people who live in a city can go for a walk in a nearby park or forest.
So slowly we’re seeing some relaxation of the quarantine measures, but every time they make a change, the impact is only visible in about two weeks. That’s why everything is going very slowly so that the coronavirus numbers are kept under control.
And while some countries are seeing the numbers go down, some others are yet to reach the peak… Russia, for example, recorded almost 10,000 new cases in one day…
Oh, and on the brighter side, Kim Jong-un appeared in public again. Nobody knows why he was absent for so long and, obviously, North Korea just makes it look like nothing ever happened…
Belgium coronavirus update: 49,517 infected, 7,765 dead
Day 54 – May 3, 2020
Coronavirus numbers are going down all over Western Europe
After about 7-8 weeks of nothing but bad news, there’s some cautious optimism all over Europe. The numbers of new corona cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are going down in Italy, in France, in the UK, in Spain, and also here in Belgium. Others are fearing the second wave, but also there, everyone hopes/thinks that it should not be as hard or as sudden as the first one…
Many countries are slowly relaxing quarantine measures, although there are still so many restrictions in all the Western European countries that have been hit the worst.
Here in Belgium, we just hope that these lower numbers will stay low 2-3 weeks later. That’s the whole problem with relaxing the quarantine – the results of anything we do today are only visible in the numbers a few weeks later… And that’s also why our government here is taking it very slowly. At the same time, the more freedom people get again, the more difficult it is to still control if everyone is sticking to the rules. So a lot will depend on each and every one of us.
What about your country? How is the situation there now?
Belgium coronavirus update: 49,906 infected, 7,844 dead
Day 55 – May 4, 2020
Belgians massively buy cloth and elastic for face masks
This morning, I drove to school with my oldest son to pick up some books and see his teacher. It was special for him to be back at school after 7 weeks at home. Two more weeks and he can restart school.
The teacher said that they’ll probably give lessons for 3 hours a day, 4 days a week, and a class will be split in two. That way, there will be 10 kids in his classroom at the same time. The teacher said that he’s not even going to be allowed to come close to the kids, so looking over the kids’ shoulders to see how things are going is out of the question.
The focus is going to be on intense learning. This is their last year at the lower school so it’s important that the kids are well prepared for the ‘big’ school in September. I guess if they work really hard for 3 hours, they’ll be getting just as much ‘serious’ work done as otherwise during the entire day.
That also means, however, that there will be little to no time to socialize with friends, but for now, social life is pushed back here in Belgium. Just get everyone working and kids studying, the rest has to wait…
On the news here in Belgium today – people storm the shops for cloth and elastic for self-made masks. The government promised masks for everyone, but nobody knows how or when it’s coming (and if). In the meantime, people who have to take public transport are obliged to use them, so everyone is sewing… Supermarkets are now also allowed to sell surgical face masks (when they can get them in stock). And that immediately made Belgian pharmacies very upset. Their monopoly position has been taken away and the whole sector is fuming. It’s incredible how everything comes back to money…
As for corona numbers, it’s been another good day here in Belgium. Just 59 new hospitalizations (which is about 10% of numbers we saw during the peak) and 80 deaths. Still so many every day…
Belgium coronavirus update: 50,267 infected, 7,924 dead
Day 56 – May 5, 2020
Will travel be possible this summer? Will you travel?
The hot topic of the day is travel. So many people have lost jobs already, so many companies are on the verge of going bankrupt, and so many countries in Europe depend on tourism money. Just one example, Lufthansa is said to be losing 1 million euros per hour, every hour. And this is just one airline…
While it’s not yet clear how and when it looks like travel within Europe should be possible this summer. That’s if we all get corona numbers much lower by then.
I’m still not daring to hope that we’ll be able to fly to Norway as planned (if we can, we’ll definitely go). But I’m really hopeful that we can at least drive to Switzerland or so. The problem now is that in many countries locals started booking up accommodations for the summer. Rumor has it that Italians are massively booking hotels in the Italian mountains and beach resorts. That makes sense, I suppose, now that it looks like local travel will be the new trend this summer.
What about you? Do you have travel plans for this summer? Are you hoping to travel, waiting for more certainty, or planning to stay home? I’m contemplating making a fully refundable booking for Switzerland or Italy, but haven’t done it yet. Our initial idea was to just wait and see how the situation is, how the weather is, and then book something last minute. But that might also mean that al the best deals will be gone and we’ll have to pay much more than if we’d do it now…
Belgium coronavirus update: 50,509 infected, 8,016 dead
Day 57 – May 6, 2020
A couple of new (more flexible) rules in Belgium
Belgian Security Council had a meeting today and announced a further reduction in quarantine measures. Some things were planned, some others are new. Here’s an overview:
- Sunday is Mother’s day in Belgium and from that day on, every family is allowed to invite 4 people into their home. It has to be the same 4 every time, to keep the ‘social bubbles’ as small as possible. This started a big discussion about how to approach this and it’s obvious that it’s not the perfect solution for everyone. But there’s so much need for more social contact that they had to do something.
- As planned, from May 11 all the shops are allowed to reopen, but under strict social distancing rules. Big cities even proposed ‘one-way’ traffic in the busy shopping streets so that people meet as few other people as possible. Shopping isn’t supposed to be ‘fun’ – you go get what you need, on your own, and go home. Kids under 18 can go shopping with one of the parents, but otherwise, you’re supposed to go alone.
- Face masks are only obligatory when using public transportation, but ‘highly recommended’ elsewhere. Now they’re trying to appeal to our altruism telling us that wearing a mask is a way to show respect to others. First, they spent weeks telling everyone that wearing masks makes no sense (probably because they didn’t have enough masks to give to people). Now that surgical masks are available in the supermarkets, it’s all of a sudden a matter of respect… Oh, politics… We just received another package of face masks, rubber gloves, and disinfectant that my mom sent us from Lithuania, so we are set.
- Markets aren’t allowed to reopen yet. Food trucks and similar can reopen if they have special permission from local authorities.
Belgium coronavirus update: 50,781 infected, 8,339 dead (110 in the last 24 hours, plus 229 they ‘forgot’ to count before – Belgium is really doing its best to stay at the top of that sad list, counting all the deaths that may or may not be corona-related)
Day 58 – May 7, 2020
Immunity against coronavirus is just 6% in Belgium
According to the most recent tests, only about 6% of the Belgian population has immunity against the coronavirus. And we need at least 50-60% to stop it. So it’s basically waiting for a vaccine because it doesn’t look like it will happen by itself.
Someone shared a meme on Facebook today that said ‘the relaxed measures don’t mean that the pandemic is over; they simply mean that at this moment there is enough space for you in the hospital‘. As sad and confronting as it sounds, I think that it’s actually a very accurate summary of the current situation… After all, the main reason for quarantine was to keep the hospitals functioning. So it’s a matter of relaxing things just enough to make sure that there are enough beds in intensive care…
There are fewer hospitalizations in Belgium today, just under 100 again. But, for example, the region where we live is just reaching the peak. We had very few cases here in the past weeks and now it seems to be catching up. This is far from over…
I find that every day with some positive news is followed by a wave of negative news again. It truly feels like a rollercoaster with no end in sight.
Greece wants to reopen for tourism from July, France just announced that they are keeping the borders shut at least until June 14, and most other countries are simply not talking about it yet… The Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) announced that they’ll reopen their borders for travel within the three countries, creating a sort of a ‘bubble’. All three countries have relatively low corona numbers and I guess they want to give the economy a much-needed boost. Most National Parks in the USA are also closed until mid June and hoping to start to reopen after that.
It seems like everyone really wants to ‘save the summer’, but at what cost. Nobody can tell it yet.
Belgium coronavirus update: 51,420 infected, 8,415 dead
Day 59 – May 8, 2020
Victory in Europe Day
Today is VE Day, the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. Big celebrations were planned all over Europe, but of course, that couldn’t go as planned. The speech of Queen Elizabeth II was again well-worth listening to. Such a powerful message. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch her speech here.
In the meantime, it seems as if the wave of positive news in Europe has slowed down a bit. There are more deaths registered in France and the UK again. Spain is relaxing some quarantine measures, but not for Barcelona or Madrid…
Some other countries are doing better and it’s really hard to say why one place was hit harder than another. Was it related to which country had school holidays at the end of February, with many people traveling around and bringing the virus back to their countries? Was it something else? Who knows. Just here in Belgium, the situation seems to be much worse than in the nearby Netherlands. And they didn’t even impose such a strict quarantine and shops remained opened there the entire time… Of course, they are also not counting the same way we do, but still. Life is already quite normal in the Netherlands and just starting to reopen here.
Our government has clarified what they mean with the new rule that allows you to visit 4 people from Sunday on (all the laws in Belgium are made in such a way that there is room for interpretation, so clarification is always needed here). For families of 4 or more living together, it basically means that you can interact with one other household. So, for example, this weekend, on Mother’s Day, people have to choose whether they visit parents or parents in law. Once that choice is made, only those two households can meet for the next weeks. So also for older people who have several children, this basically means that they can choose to see one child’s family, stick to their choice and not see any other children or grandchildren for the next weeks.
We simply decided to stay home and not go to my parents in law this weekend. Because if we go, my sister-in-law who lives much closer to them, wouldn’t be allowed to visit anymore. My mom lives in Lithuania, so that’s an ‘easy’ choice – we just do video calls, probably for many months to come… So for us nothing changed – we are staying home in our own little ‘bubble’.
How about you? Are you allowed to have any social contacts already?
Belgium coronavirus update: 52,011 infected, 8,521 dead
Day 60 – May 9, 2020
So many people are tired of Corona-measures
It looks like most people really have had enough of quarantine and lockdown. In Germany, thousands of people are protesting against the corona measures; in Belgium police stopped a protest by arresting quite some people on the way to it. And the streets in bigger towns are full of people. Walking around, enjoying the sun, and glad to be out of their apartments after almost 2 months of quarantine. I can’t even blame them…
We are all in the same storm, but definitely not in the same boat.
Yesterday, I listened to a story of two teenage girls living in a small apartment in Antwerp city. No space, no privacy, no alone time, no routine, impossible to concentrate on schoolwork, uncertainty about the exams… Add to that uncertainty about people’s jobs, health issues, irritations among family members, trying to combine teleworking with homeschooling, and you get a very good picture of what an impact all of this has on so many people in so many ways… When you hear how so many people live in times of coronavirus, you really can’t blame them for wanting to go for a walk in the city…
The virus is far from controlled and a second wave is expected, but it seems that people just want to go on with their lives… We listened to a TV debate of politicians and virologists here in Belgium today and one of them said what a lot of people are probably thinking – the next quarantine should be for the sick people. Tracing and testing should play a crucial role. We just can’t afford to do this to our economy and social wellbeing anymore. While this virus is scary and the death toll is immense, how big will be the impact of all the socio-economic measures we have taken…
Nobody knows, of course, but there are some countries that have done it differently and some of them paid a much lower human toll and didn’t suffer half as bad economically. So there’s a lot of food for thought here and maybe some lessons to be learned for the future. At the same time, we are dealing with something really exceptional and unique…
When I see the reports of millions of people who have lost their jobs, huge companies on the verge of bankruptcy, and so much uncertainty all around us, I really wonder if we could have somehow handled all of this better.
Belgium coronavirus update: 52,596 infected, 8,581 dead
Day 61 – May 10, 2020
The stores are reopening tomorrow. But will anyone be shopping? And will our life ever be back to normal?
Tomorrow, all the shops are reopening here in Belgium. But the rules are so complex that you really have to be desperate to want to go shopping.
To give you an idea. A big store that sells clothing from tens of different brands sent out an email yesterday explaining how they’ll deal with the new rules after the opening. One of the things they said is that you won’t be allowed to try on any clothes. You can buy them, take home, try them on, and return if they don’t fit.
But we can already do this when shopping online. Why in the world would anyone take the time to drive to the shop (potentially twice), risk getting the virus, and won’t even be able to try on the clothes… Other clothing stores say they’ll allow people to try things on but will put everything in ‘quarantine’ for 24-48 hours after the client tried something on. There will be no clothes left in the store after a couple of clients.
On top of this, some cities are introducing one-way walking paths in the shopping streets, some shops are planning to measure your body temperature before you enter, and we’re expected to keep 1,5-2 meters distance from everyone. If that is not enough, people are expected not to touch anything they’re not planning to buy. How do you do that when looking at clothing?!
I really think that you have to be totally desperate to go shopping in these circumstances. The government is allowing the shops to reopen in order to help the businesses. But the way it looks now, it will just cost them more money to have the staff and all the special measures in place and there will be no clients to pay for all of that.
It’s clearer every day that this will become the biggest economic crisis we have ever known if things won’t get back to normal in the next few weeks. And the way it looks now, we’re still very very far from that… And what is ‘normal’? Will the new normal even resemble our life before?
Our minister of health said today that ‘we have to understand that the normal life as we know it might never return again‘. Her spokesperson afterwards said that she didn’t mean ‘never’, but that ‘it will take a while’. That we already knew. Now the question is how long will ‘a while’ be…
Belgium coronavirus update: 53,081 infected, 8,656 dead
Day 62 – May 11, 2020
Contact tracing (finally) starts in Belgium
I can’t believe that it’s been two months since I started keeping this diary. We hardly left the house in 60 days. The highlights this month were a trip to a local supermarket and a drive to kids school to pick up some books… It still feels surreal.
All over Europe, the curves are bending down and so there is more and more freedom. But this new way of doing things is not something I’ll quickly get used to.
Today, for the first time after 8 weeks, all the shops opened in Belgium. As expected, there weren’t too many people in most places, but some bargain retailers had to deal with long lines of sometimes several hundred people queuing outside. Household items (disinfectants and similar), telecom shops, and cheap clothing seem to be most in-demand at the moment. I wonder how the big shopping streets will look like next weekend. And I’m really anxious to see the numbers in a few weeks from now…
Today, we had one of the best days in terms of new corona-related hospitalizations (60) and deaths (62). But the numbers of today reflect the situation 7-14 days ago. Still, I choose to hope that things are headed in the right direction and that we can stop this virus from spreading further. We can do this! Wearing masks, keeping distance, washing hands, contact tracing, and quarantine for people at risk – all this should hopefully prevent us from having to go back to lockdown situations again.
How is the situation is your country/ region? Feel free to leave a reply below and share your experience.
Belgium coronavirus update: 53,449 infected, 8,707 dead
Day 63 – May 12, 2020
Some hope for travel in Europe, but…
Today, it’s a day with some mixed news again. Some countries, like Turkey, Greece, and Iceland are making plans to reopen for tourism and budget airline Ryanair hopes to have 1000 flights per day in July. Iceland announced plans to reopen for tourism from Schengen countries in a few days and from other countries – from the 15th of June. But there will be quarantine and/or testing involved, not yet clear how.
At the same time, many other countries aren’t even relaxing measures for their own citizens, let alone think about travel. Brussels Airlines announced today that they will layoff 1000 people, get rid of 10 airplanes, and cancel flights to 24 destinations… That’s if they get the government’s support to survive in the first place…
I have checked our flights for Norway in July and there’s no news there. The same problem many people have – your trip is booked a long time ago and you can’t cancel anything yourself or you are giving up all your rights to get a reimbursement. I don’t really care that much if we can travel this summer (although I’m really looking forward to exploring beautiful nature destinations again). I just wish we had some certainty…
What also makes me sad is that I have no idea when I’ll be able to see my mom again. It’s so upsetting to see comments all over social media from people who see travel only as ‘luxury’ and ‘unnecessary’ and almost ‘evil’… forgetting that so many families are separated, that millions of people working in the sector are unemployed, and thousands of small businesses might never recover…
The good news here in Belgium today was the new low record of new hospitalizations (43) and the number of deaths is lower too.
Belgium coronavirus update: 53,779 infected, 8,761 dead
Day 64 – May 13, 2020
More places reopening from the 18th of May
Good news today! From Monday 18/5, hairdressers are allowed to reopen in Belgium. And also museums, zoos, and cultural sights.
We already made a hairdresser’s appointment for all of us for next week. The kids are starting to look like Tom Hanks in ‘Cast Away‘ and I rather not look in the mirror either… Only my husband looks ok, but that’s because he let me experiment with his hair a few weeks ago… (And luckily that went well)
Another major change is the reopening of zoos and cultural sights. They will have to adjust their booking systems. Visits will be limited and have to be pre-booked. But at least we can finally get out of the house and go somewhere. Yay!
Longer day trips aren’t easy to plan yet, mainly because no restaurants are open. Also, with our oldest son going back to school in a few days, it won’t be straightforward. But I hope that we can find something nice to do, even if just for a few hours.
Belgium coronavirus update: 53,981 infected, 8,843 dead
Day 65 – May 14, 2020
Too soon to relax quarantine measures?
After the good news of yesterday, there’s not much positive in the news today. Except that for the first time in 7 weeks, there are fewer than 2000 corona patients in Belgian hospitals. On the other hand, there are more new hospitalizations than in the past few days.
More and more countries are relaxing their quarantine measures one way or another, but so many people say that it’s going too fast in some regions. There are also huge differences between the countries and also between the regions inside the country.
The USA seems to also be struggling with which direction to take. I just can’t believe that there, it’s more of a political battle between Democrats and Republicans instead of looking at what numbers and scientists say… But that’s the sad reality in many countries – in the end, it all comes down to politics and interests of specific groups. It’s often a really tough choice. Finding the right balance between healthcare situation and economic impact is not easy.
I’m also wondering how some countries like Iceland are planning to test tourists. How long does it take before you get the results? And what happens if they turn out to be positive? Do they put you in the hospital or send you home? And what about the people who traveled with you – are they allowed to travel or also placed in quarantine? And who pays for all of this?
Does it even make sense to test people after they already arrived somewhere vs. testing them before they leave? And if you test them before they leave, when do you do that to make sure that the results are there in time, but are also recent enough to reflect the situation?
This approach that Iceland is planning to take, of course, makes some travel possible. For people who are taking a very long trip, maybe. Or people who are totally flexible with the schedule… But I can’t imagine that many people will actually want to book a new trip under these circumstances. We’ll all need much more clarity than this for international travel to resume, don’t you think?
Belgium coronavirus update: 54,288 infected, 8,903 dead
Day 66 – May 15, 2020
Back to school
Today, our oldest son went back to school. It was a sort of test day to see how everything goes with social distancing, etc. From next week on, he’s going to have lessons 3 hours a day, 4 days a week, and with just half of his classmates. The other half also does the same, but not at the same time. It was a strange day for him, but he seems to be much happier and more relaxed than I have seen him in weeks.
Based on our Federal Government’s typical style of communication, our kids’ school went from ‘strongly recommending that students wear face masks‘ to ‘students wear no masks‘. It almost sounds like it’s forbidden, the way they put it. And guess what, there were just a few kids in the 6th grade who wore facial masks today. From what I heard, mostly boys and not one girl. I guess it’s not cool at that age, but the school really made it worse with this statement. And this at a time when there is a corona peak in our region…
Sorry for a rant (and I already deleted most of it). It’s just not a good day…
Belgium coronavirus update: 54,644 infected, 8,959 dead
Day 67 – May 16, 2020
Eurovision – Shine A Light
Not much time for the diary today. In the morning, we went for a nice long walk in the nature reserve nearby. In the evening, I brought some take-away pizza and we watched the Eurovision show. It wasn’t like the other years, but what a great show and very well suited for these strange times.
I think it’s exactly what people in Europe needed now. A positive optimistic message and a relaxing evening that, for once, wasn’t about the coronavirus or the tragic numbers…
Below is a video of the theme song of this year. Love Shine A Light won Eurovision many years ago (1997) and was performed by all this year’s artists (except a Belgian group, whose ego was apparently too big to partake in the song they didn’t like – as if that’s the point of doing a project like that…). Anyway, take a look at this beautiful performance and I hope it puts a smile on your face. We all need it these days!
P.S. For those of you outside of Europe who may not know what Eurovision is. It’s a yearly song contest with artists from over 40 countries. It started back in 1956 and was a launching platform for many great artists in Europe, including big names like ABBA or Celine Dion. This was the first time in 64 years that the contest couldn’t take place live and was replaced by a beautiful show last night.
Belgium coronavirus update: 54,989 infected, 9,005 dead
Day 68 – May 17, 2020
Lots of uncertainty (and it won’t change any time soon)
Lots of mixed messages in the news here today. Some people want all the kids to return to school this schoolyear still, while others are talking about how it will be impossible to even reopen all the schools in September…
In the meantime over the border, in the Netherlands, the biggest theme park Efteling is planning to reopen in a few days. And it’s already fully booked for the first two weeks… A theme park is pretty much the last place I’d want to go now, but apparently there are many people who don’t see a problem in visiting a place with thousands of people around them… I guess everyone is just really tired of being stuck at home. Especially people with young kids and no place to move around…
There are also lots of protests against the corona-measures all over Europe. People are starting to feel the economic and socio-emotional impact of quarantine and the balance is tough. It looks like many people really just want to move on, no matter the risks.
Here in Europe, many countries gave all kinds of financial support to businesses that had to close over the last few months. Also unemployed people get financial support. But now that many places are starting to reopen and that support is gone, lots of businesses are starting to realize that they won’t be able to make it anyway. Shops are open, but hardly anyone is shopping… Also, so many people who never did it in the past also learned to shop online. It was already tough for many small local shops to survive and I think that corona was just the last drop that made the cup run over. I expect that unemployment numbers will skyrocket very quickly…
Belgium coronavirus update: 55,280 infected, 9,052 dead
Day 69 – May 18, 2020
Italy is reopening
There’s all of a sudden so much more attention to the social and economic aspect of the coronavirus. So many families are in very difficult financial situations, people lost jobs, kids have no internet or computers at home and are seriously behind on their school work…
It’s as if now that things start to reopen that some of the damage is becoming visible. And it feels like it’s only the tip of the iceberg…
Italy has reopened so many things at once today – restaurants, hairdressers, museums, churches… They went from a complete lockdown to this in one go. And there’s just one simple reason – if they don’t do that, most businesses will be out of business. Now, we just have to wait and see what the impact of this will be in a few weeks. And in two weeks, from 3/6, they are also reopening for tourism. Is it too much too soon? Or too little too late? It really depends on how you look at it…
In the meantime, other countries like Belgium show no indication whatsoever when they’ll reopen the borders. One of our hotels in Norway sent us an email again asking to postpone our trip to next year because their government decided to keep the borders closed until 20/8. At the same time, the official tourism website says that by 15/6 they’ll give more clarity about travel for Scandinavian countries and by 20/7 – for the other countries. But ‘by‘ a certain date can basically mean anything – next week, next month… And so our flights aren’t canceled yet, we are not even allowed to rebook, because the situation is uncertain and travel might still be possible…
I just wish more countries would give more clarity and let people and the tourism sector try to plan their summer. The way it is now, it’s just complete chaos and uncertainty. I mean, if you really want to keep those borders closed until 20/8, why then say that there might be exceptions. This uncertainty just paralyzes everything. Hotels could try to sell those rooms to the locals, but foreigners like us can’t cancel without knowing that we’ll also be able to cancel or rebook our flights…
Just very few countries have announced clear deadlines for reopening. Italy, Greece, Iceland, and Slovenia are just very few examples. Most others are waiting…
Belgium coronavirus update: 55,559 infected, 9,080 dead
Day 70 – May 19, 2020
Should all the kids return to school?
In an open letter, 269 doctors in Belgium are pleading to let the kids go back to school. They say that the psychological impact of this quarantine will have a huge impact on children. Taking into account that so few children get sick or transfer this coronavirus, they say that there is no good reason to ‘exclude the kids from the society’.
When I see the positive effect going back to school is having on our oldest son, I indeed wish that all the children could go back to school as soon as possible. Our twins really need their social life back – their friends, their own little secrets, discussions about things that we as parents just wouldn’t get…
They have been stuck here at home for almost 10 weeks now and hardly ever left the house. Not easy for two super active 9-year old boys… We can’t even take them grocery shopping as everyone is expected to go shopping alone. Going for a walk or a bike ride is ok and we try to do that with them, but after a while, they just lost interest in that too. If you’d let them, they’d spent the whole day in front of a screen…
Oh, how much I wish that life would get back to normal soon. I just can’t imagine they wouldn’t see their friends until September (or longer). That would be half a year. Unthinkable. Adults are allowed to socialize – go to work, to shopping, see up to 4 of their friends. But kids are indeed forgotten and often excluded from these decisions. They’re tough andI’m sure they’ll get through this ok, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy for them. It sure doesn’t feel like a vacation from school…
P.S. I stopped posting pictures here a while ago because this page is becoming way too heavy to load. But the area where we live is so beautiful this time of the year… You can find some pictures on our Facebook account and I finally even posted a picture on Instagram after a two-month break. Check it out, say hi, and give us a follow!
Belgium coronavirus update: 55,791 infected, 9,108 dead
Day 72 – May 21, 2020
Second-home owners are allowed to go to their properties at the coast again
Sorry, I missed a day yesterday. Nothing really special happened, but the kids were in bed so late that I completely forgot I still had to write the diary. Instead, we watched a very light-hearted romantic comedy on Netflix and kind of started a long weekend.
It’s a holiday here today. And because schools are closed for the weekend, it now actually feels like a long weekend to us as well. We’ve been at home for 10 weeks and yet, now that our oldest doesn’t have school for a few days, it somehow feels like a real vacation. Funny how a human mind works…
The biggest change here in Belgium is that people who have second homes or apartments on the coast are now finally allowed to go there. With the long weekend and the amazing summer weather, the government was afraid that everyone would flock the beaches today, but it seems that most people decided to stay home anyway.
Which is good because we have a slight increase in corona-numbers today again. It’s only this weekend – beginning of next week that we’ll see the effects of the measures from two weeks ago. That’s when all the shops and most businesses reopened. So let’s hope that the increase won’t be too big…
We’re still pretty much only leaving the house when we have to. Yesterday, I took our youngest to the supermarket with me. We both wore masks and it was really special for him. It was the first time after more than two months that he was out of the house and saw other people. He just had to get out of the house and I think it did him good. At the same time, it was also strange for him to wear a face mask and realize that nothing is like before…
I ended up with the whole shopping cart full of chips and other things I’d normally not buy. But oh well, it’s not every day we do this.
Belgium coronavirus update: 56,235 infected, 9,186 dead
Day 73 – May 22, 2020
Big news – we went to a hairdresser & bought two new bikes for kids
We went to a hairdresser today! One more step to normality. She’s also a friend and it was so good to be able to chat with someone else than my husband and kids for a change…
We should have probably taken a before and after picture but didn’t think of it this morning. It would have been a funny memory for later. I don’t think we’ll ever have such long and wild hair ever again… I think I lost at least a few hundred grams of weight when she cut my hair. Seriously. The kids also look so nice again.
This morning, my husband also took two kids to a bike store for new bikes. I’m happy that at least our oldest could finally get a big bike that he should be able to use for many years to come. His ‘old’ bike went to one of his younger brothers. Those bikes cost a small fortune and kids outgrow them much too quickly… So now we have two smaller bikes to sell. Another project for me.
Another good news today is that kids’ camps will be allowed this summer. We have an adventure camp booked for our oldest son, so now he has something to look forward to.
There are also talks to reopen preschools from June. And they are also thinking of allowing kids of two more grades of secondary school to go back to school. Other years of lower school might still also go back to school this school year, but they want to take it slow…
That probably means that if our twins to go back, it will only be for a week or two. Basically, just to say hi to their friends before summer vacation. That way, they’ll have almost half a year of ‘vacation’ – from mid March until September, with maybe just a few days of school in June. And nobody knows yet how and if schools will reopen in the fall. If someone would have told me this a few months ago, I would have never believed it…
Belgium coronavirus update: 56,511 infected, 9,212 dead
Day 74 – May 23, 2020
Corona numbers lower all over Europe
Here in Europe, we have lots of reason for hope today. In all the hardest-hit countries like Italy, the UK, and also Belgium, the numbers are going down. Fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths.
It’s now clear that the first phase of reopening two weeks ago didn’t have a negative effect here in Belgium. So there’s hope for normal-ish life to return soon. But what will the new normal be…
EU has already announced guidelines that urge everyone to wear masks at the airports and on the planes in Europe. Hand luggage should be limited and self-check-in is advised. People will also have to sign a declaration that they haven’t been sick in the last few weeks and have no COVID-19 symptoms.
Of course, these are just general EU guidelines, so every country will still be able to adjust this. But it makes me think of 9-11 and how it changed airport security forever. I think that COVID-19 will have a lasting effect as well. Will face masks become obligatory on all flights in the future? Who knows… One thing is clear, there will be some serious changes short-term.
Belgium coronavirus update: 56,810 infected, 9,237 dead (‘just’ 25 today)
Day 75 – May 24, 2020
So many Germans with motorhomes on Belgian highways today
This morning, we visited my parents in law. More than an hour in the car to say hi, have a cup of coffee and some cake, and then more than an hour to get back. We wore masks and tried to keep some distance from each other, but I think that it really meant a lot to them just to see us. Even if for a bit. We hadn’t seen each other for over two months. It also felt strange to be out of the house and driving somewhere.
When you stay home for so long, you think that the whole world stands still. But then you take a highway and you realize that life is going on pretty much as usual. Trucks, cars, people everywhere – it was not much quieter than on a regular Sunday pre-corona…
But what surprised me the most is how many German motorhomes and campervans we saw on the highway. It seems that Germans massively came to the Belgian coast for this long weekend. I don’t even understand how that is possible since the borders are supposedly closed. But, judging by the number of German campervans and motorhomes we passed this morning, the borders are not only open, but nobody even seems to control who is passing by and why…
It’s kind of sad, really. Here in Belgium, most people are still not traveling around when not necessary. Not many Belgians went to the coast this weekend despite having 4 days off and rather good weather. In the meantime, foreigners are crossing the borders and going to the seaside here…
This just shows once more that it will be impossible to prevent people from traveling in Europe in summer. Many countries have already announced the opening of their borders from June or July. I assume it’s only a matter of time before most of Europe will reopen… And those few countries that want to stay closed will have to do a much better job at controlling their borders than Germany or Belgium…
Belgium coronavirus update: 57,092 infected, 9,280 dead
Day 76 – May 25, 2020
The beginning of the end
It looks like corona numbers are going down and we are getting a bit more freedom every day. So from now on, I’ll only publish an update every couple of days when there is a significant change or something really important happening. Thank you all for following along. I hope that this is the beginning of the end. It’s far from over yet, but today I’m hopeful that the worst is over.
Day 80 – May 29, 2020
Schools are restarting, but how will we ever make this work?!
Oh, boy, it’s time for this diary again. In 80 days of quarantine, I have never been more down than I am today. Belgian government decided that all the kids can go back to school from the 5th of June, but schools are allowed to decide how it will be done.
Our kids’ school managed to come up with the worst possible scenario that means that our kids have to go to school at two different times: one from 8.30 until 11.30 AM, and the other two – from 12.30 to 3.30 PM. That means that we have to drive to school and back home 4 times in one day. That’s 20 minutes drive each way, so at least 40-45 minutes per ride. Almost 100 km and more than 3 hours per day in the car…
In the meantime, another child has to either come with us or stay home (alone?). At noon, there is no time to have lunch. And when and how are the parents supposed to get any work done?
There are so many ways to do this. But this?
I just cannot imagine how we’ll have to make this work. After 80 tough days, we get this on top of everything and it feels like it’s the toughest day of them all. I just don’t see how we’ll get through the month of June…
Should we just keep the kids at home? They need social contact and their friends so much. But what kind of sacrifice are the schools asking from the parents? Today this feels like a slap in the face…
Belgium coronavirus update: 58,061 infected, 9,430 dead
Day 82 – May 31, 2020
Belgium reopening further. Norway stays closed and we have to cancel our summer trip…
Corona-numbers are going further down and we have more freedom to move again. That means that this weekend lots of Belgians went to the coast and some places got really busy…
Our government was also a bit too eager to communicate some new changes. On Friday evening, they announced that people who live close to the border can now go and do shopping in the neighboring countries again. Except… They forgot to discuss this with the neighboring countries… So there were lots of people who were turned back at the borders. Communication is unbelievable! And how can you just decide to open the borders without talking to France or the Netherlands or Germany?!
Anyway, tourism as such isn’t allowed yet. The decision about that is expected this week. I just wish Europe would have some kind of a coordinated plan, but it really looks like every country just does what they think is right at that time. And it leads to some absurd situations…
Talking about different countries taking a different approach. Norway has announced that for now, they’ll only be opening up to tourists from Denmark, starting from June 15. Not even to Sweden or Finland.
So our trip at the beginning of July seems to be very unlikely. Like 0,01% chance. So yesterday we started canceling our hotels and car rental. We are now also allowed to rebook our flights to next year, which we’ll try to do. No trip to the beautiful Lofoten for us this year. Hopefully, we can go there next summer…
For now, we are waiting to see what Belgium decides about summer travel. Then see which countries around us are open, and then try to plan a last-minute road trip or so. Austria, Italy, or Switzerland are our top places where we could drive to by car in summer. Anywhere with nice mountains and lots of hiking possibilities will do. Fingers crossed that this virus is going to be (almost) gone by July!
Belgium coronavirus update: 58,381 infected, 9,467 dead
Day 86 – June 4, 2020
Finally, Belgium is starting to reopen and we are getting most of our freedom back. From now on, it’s all about getting back to normal and what’s not explicitly forbidden, is allowed. That being said, there are still quite some restrictions and many things that are forbidden…
Here’s the most recent update on the current (travel-related) situation in Belgium:
- Cafes, bars, and restaurants are opening from June 8.
- Travel within Belgium is allowed from June 8. Belgian theme parks and swimming pools will be opening from July 1.
- Belgian borders are opening up for European travel from June 15. Tourists from all EU countries, but also Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein are allowed to visit Belgium from that date. Belgians are also allowed to travel within Europe, as long as those countries allow it. For now, there are still many countries that are not opening or not to everyone. For example, Norway, where we had planned a summer trip, isn’t allowing foreigners in yet. The Baltic States have released the list of the countries that are allowed to visit. Belgium isn’t on it yet.
- Travel outside of Europe isn’t allowed yet. We are expecting a coordinated approach for the whole Europen Union or Schengen Zone. However, at the moment, there is no certainty at all yet.
July 28, 2020
Almost two months later, so much has happened again that I think this article deserves an update…
Life got pretty much to ‘new normal’ in Belgium in June. All our kids went back to school, even though just a few hours/days. Our oldest graduated from the lower school and we could watch a very moving graduation ceremony online, as no parents were allowed at school. We could finish thh school year in a somewhat normal way.
As European borders reopened, we could even take a road trip to the mountains. We went the moment we could and before all the neighboring countries started their school holidays. So it was still relatively quiet. We hiked Tre Cime and countless other trails in the Italian Dolomites, took a day trip to Venice (it was incredible but also sad without all the tourists), visited Stubai and Zillertal in Austrian Tyrol…
Now, the situation is getting worse in so many places all over Europe again. Here in Belgium, we are seeing a huge increase in new covid-19 cases. This week, we recorded an increase of over 70% compared to last week, with 311 new daily cases on average. And no, none of that seems to be related to the reopening of the borders. Rather with private parties and too close personal contacts at cafés… Sad.
So there are a whole lot of new rules and restrictions since this week again. Face masks are now obligatory in all public indoor places all over Belgium and also outdoors in busy places (shopping streets, restaurants, etc). Many cities have their own additional rules which basically mean that you always should have a mask with you and should wear it anywhere where there are more people.
We are now allowed to see just 5 people outside of our family and those have to be the same people for at least 4 weeks. In the province of Antwerp, where we live, the rules are even stricter. People who can work from home are not allowed to go to the office. And there is now a curfew that means that people can’t be out of their homes after 11.30 PM. No big deal for us, but all this should stop all the partying… But everyone is wondering if it’s not a bit ‘too little, too late’…
Instead of closing borders and bringing the whole economy to a halt, if they would have just kept all the cafés closed, we would be much better off now. I think it would cost the state less to pay café owners to help them get through this period than to have things run out of hand again. But nobody dares to make those decisions and, before you know it, it’s too late again…
The way it is now, we have no idea how September and the reopening of the schools will look like. For now, we are staying at home and are quite happy to do so. We definitely felt safer in the mountains than here in busy cities or beaches in Belgium. We also hope that all the partying people start taking this seriously and learn to keep their distance from each other… Come on, it’s really not that difficult! But we also doubt if the current measures will be able to stop the second wave. Only time will tell.
September 4, 2020
The schools have reopened in Belgium on September 1, as usual. There are some changes (the biggest one is the obligatory facial masks for kids over 12 and teachers), but for now, it feels as normal as it hasn’t been in months. Now let’s hope that it stays this way…
After a big surge of new covid-19 cases at the end of July and the beginning of August, the number of new infections here in Belgium seems to have stabilized somewhat. We now have around 400-450 new cases daily, but the number of hospitalizations and deaths remains quite low.
However, all the countries around us and pretty much everywhere in Europe actually, are seeing a big increase in new infections. Even Lithuania where my family lives has now reached 16 infections per 100.000 inhabitants and strengthened the rules. They had very low numbers in the summer, but the virus didn’t take a vacation, it seems…
I wonder how this fall and winter will look like and will keep this page updated once in a while when any bigger changes happen. For now, we’re staying at home, the kids go to school, and we are not making many travel plans… If we had no kids and obligations here at home, I would be traveling all over Europe this fall. It seems that it’s one of the best times to be traveling and there are so many places where social distancing would be so much easier than here at home…
But oh well, we’ll just have to wait it all out and hope this nightmare is over or that countries actually take measures to learn to live with the virus instead of constantly shutting everything down. Strange times indeed.