I said last time that it felt like we are nearer the end than the beginning. That's still true, at least that the beginning of the end is now in sight. The Belgian government announced on Friday that there will be a gradual relaxation, starting on 4 May, tomorrow week, with offices opening though teleworking will remain the norm; on 11 May most shops will reopen, on 18 May most businesses and museums will open, some kids will go back to school and the borders will open, and from 8 June restaurants and cafes will open again, and so will tourist attractions and small-scale open air events. We will all have to wear masks in public.
This is all dependent on the numbers continuing to decrease. The news there has been good of late; we're now down to below 4,000 in hospital, and below 900 in intensive care. But the decrease is awfully slow, and of course the risk of a second wave is very real. And there are other countries where the news is much less good - heaven knows when any of us will be able to visit the United States again.
I'm still fortunate in that I have lost nobody in my immediate circle of friends and relatives. Two political figures who I vaguely knew (a former African prime minister and a retired Swedish diplomat) both succumbed to the virus. Several friends and colleagues have lost close relatives (mostly but not always parents). Another old acquaintance, someone I saw fairly often when I first came to Brussels but had only caught up with once in the last ten years, simply dropped dead last week, at the end of his working day in North Africa, aged only 57; probably not virus-related, but who knows? The Grim Reaper is breathing down all of our necks.
Despite that we've been keeping amused as far as possible. Work continues to provide plenty of activity (which is a good sign). The Doctor Who rewatches planned on Twitter by Emily Cook have been very uplifting. I've been getting deeply into the 1970s series Secret Army, about the Belgian resistance during the second world war, which the rest of the family won't watch because it's too depressing. Anne and I have been getting into The Good Place as well. With no commute, my reading time has drastically shrunk. But I've continued to make my videos about Oud-Heverlee in lockdown.
I'll write a jollier post about this later on, I hope, but just to note that today is my 53rd birthday. The day I was born was the 53rd birthday of the American writer Bernard Malamud, born in 1914, which seems impossibly long ago now. I've had worse birthdays (in both 2009 and 2010 I was very ill on the day), but I've had more fun ones too.
Stay in touch.