Maltese in Brussels: How are they coping with Covid-19?

Belgium is one of the countries which has been the worst hit by Covid, and in fact the Belgium Health Minister said that his country is heading towards a tsunami of new cases. Over the last week, the average number of daily cases in Belgium rose to 9,000 while three weeks ago the daily average was 500. This has forced the authorities to impose restrictive measures once again for the next four weeks.

Many Maltese people who live in this city because they work in one of the European institutions have been affected by the measures imposed by the Belgium Government. In an interview with TVM, Malta’s Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg Ray Azzopardi said that during the pandemic the embassy has had many requests for repatriation. This is because Belgium served as a bridge when many airports stopped their flights to Malta, and it also played a role in transporting medicine and equipment to Malta.

“The embassy has assisted Maltese people who had questions about the pandemic and about what could be done if they wanted to visit their families, whether they could travel, and if they needed to do anything in order to travel.”

The Ambassador said that to date he has had no request to assist Maltese people for health reasons. Mr Azzopardi said that when the Maltese who live in Belgium visit the island, they need to spend two weeks in quarantine once they go back to Belgium because Malta is listed in the red zone

Ray Attard who works in Brussels said he felt sad that, in this reality, he could not use the plane ticket he had bought to go visit his grandson on his birthday.

“I have a family in Malta, my mother, children, my grandchildren, and I find it difficult. You are always thinking about going back, but you can’t.  I have missed birthdays, relatives who are not well, but I just cannot pack up and go because since Malta is in the red zone it does not make sense to visit.”

“Brussels has come alive slightly, compared to how it was during the lockdown when it was dead. You would not see any cars or any shops open. In order to go shopping you were given a half hour permit, and only one person could go, two people could not go together.”

Ray Attard said that with Covid-19, one no longer feels like a free individual. If you go down to the square you hardly see anyone.

Keith Caruana who works at the Malta’s Permanent Representation to the EU said that harsh measures had to be introduced to instil more discipline among the public.

“Restrictions had to be increased because people were not taking enough precautions. Now it appears that everyone has become aware again and they are taking the necessary precautions.”

While Brussels has lost almost all its colour, a line of schoolchildren walking behind one another stands out, since the educational sector has continued with the necessary precautions.