Belgian undertaker buries almost only COVID victims as second wave hits the country
By Marine Strauss and Yves Herman Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont, Belgium (Reuters) - In a small town south of Brussels, funeral director Stephane Geeurickx says almost all the dead he has buried in the last weeks died of COVID-19, which was not the case when the pandemic first took hold.
By Marine Strauss and Yves Herman
Chapelle-lez-Herlaimont, Belgium (Reuters) - In a small town south of Brussels, funeral director Stephane Geeurickx says almost all the dead he has buried in the last weeks died of COVID-19, which was not the case when the pandemic first took hold.
Belgium, a country of 11 million, is in the grip of the second wave of the virus and has one of the world's highest COVID-19 mortality rates. It has also seen one of Europe's sharpest jumps in cases this autumn.
"In March-April, we noticed a number of deaths higher than normal but they were not necessarily directly linked to COVID-19," Geeurickx, who owns Centre funéraire S.O.S Décès, told Reuters.
But now almost all the funerals he organises are for those who contracted the virus.
Belgium's COVID-19 death toll stands at 13,216, according to data from the Sciensano health institute.
Standing in front of brown and white wooden coffins, Geeurickx said none of the eight employees of the funeral home founded by his parents in the 1980s, had asked to stop working during the pandemic or had become infected.
"We had no cases of contamination and there were no big specific fears even regarding the handling of COVID-19 deceased," Geeurickx said.
He said the funeral home applies full protective measures when handling the bodies of COVID victims. However, when conducting funerals, they are sensitive to relatives' needs and do allow families to hug and be close to each other.
Belgium has imposed social restrictions and closed non-essential shops and services until Dec 1 to try and curb the spread of the virus.
(Reporting by Yves Herman and Marine Strauss, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.