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#Koezio for indoor adventure

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They say good news travels far and news about one of the newer and more exciting visitor attractions in Brussels has stretched a long way – as far as Canada and Thailand.

The indoor adventure park Koezio, located at the thriving Docks Bruxel shopping and leisure complex, sees about 150,000 visitors pass through its doors each year.

Some participants, acting on recommendations by hotels, Trip Advisor and Visit Brussels (and keen to get the experience for themselves) have even come from as far away as Canada and Thailand.

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The centre has proved a big hit since it became the first Koezio to open outside its heartland in France.

Headquartered in Lille, in northern France, the Brussels centre was the fourth to open (there are also two in Paris) and it now attracts participants –known as “agents” – from all over Belgium.

First, an explanation for first-time visitors. Koezio (it is pronounced as Ko-wa-ze-o) is a place quite unlike any other you have probably visited. It offers “training as a special agent” in a converted 3,200 square metre space.

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For two hours, your endurance, intelligence, courage and team spirit are challenged to complete the “journey” through what are called four districts: a mysterious labyrinth, a machine room with giant modules, an escape room and finally a dizzying trail at 12 metres heigh.

It’s the type of test that James Bond author Ian Fleming himself might have appreciated.

No need to be fearful though: what matters here is ‘being together’ and increasing cohesion – the invented word Koezio is derived from cohesion - within a group. Koezio is accessible for both young and old and from 2 players upwards.For safety reasons you must be 1 metre 40cm in height and anyone under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

Worth pointing out that you do not have to be super fit or an athlete.

The fun starts on arrival with the “secret agent” subterfuge. This is when you are given your very own “secret code” allowing access to the park. On arrival, you enter your “secret code” details on a touch-screen monitor before changing into freshly laundered overalls which is when you are let loose on the course for the next couple of hours.

Seven teams of up to 5 players are allowed entry every 15 minutes, with the idea being that the park does not get overcrowded.

The idea is to clock up as many points as you can. So called “elite agents” can score up to 600,000 points but the average per visit is about 330,000.

Unlike other escape games in Brussels and elsewhere, the idea here is all about working as a team, not against each other. The emphasis for the “secret agents” is on team work and co-operation. At the end, each participant/team is give a detailed print out of their score and performance.

For a small supplement, you can also take a special camera into the park to film the whole adventure (the images can later be downloaded on to a USB stick). Koezio is great for a family visit but is also ideal location for team building exercises.

Kjell Materman, its communication manager, says the Brussels site has become particular popular for companies whose members can meet up in a private room for a “discover my team” chat before the adventure starts. The centre, built on what used to be a fabrics factory dating to the mid-1800s, also has meeting rooms, a dining room and a lounge for an aperitif or meal or drink after your “mission”.

Kjell, who used to work at The Parlamentarium in Brussels said: “We are also seeing more and more tourists who may have been sent on the recommendation of others.”

There are special discounts if you book online and reductions for schools and youth clubs. Try also to have a go on the virtual reality game at the entrance.

The Brussels centre is not as large as in Lille (which has two “missions”) but, because of clever designing, has a similar layout.

The first Koezio opened in Lille in 2006 and so successful has the concept proved that a fifth one will open in Lyon this summer with plans for others in London, the Netherlands and Spain.

This go ahead company has invested a lot in spreading the word about Koezio and, as the visitor figures, this policy is paying off.Beware that weekends are particularly popular so best to book then.

Transport links are great as the site is situated on two tramlines which whisk you into central Brussels in just 10 minutes. There is a huge car park nearby and, from the summer,there are also river tours on the nearby Brussels Canal.

Another great reason to pay a visit right now is that the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken are currently open to the public until 10 May.

Whatever time of year you come here, though, you are sure of great fun.

Eat your heart out James Bond!

Koezio
Docks Bruxel
T. (0)2 319 5454

 

Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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Climate change made deadly floods in Western Europe at least 20% more likely - study

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A house hit by a landslide is seen after heavy rain caused flooding in towns surrounding Lake Como in northern Italy, in Laglio, Italy. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Climate change has made extreme rainfall events of the kind that sent lethal torrents of water hurtling through parts of Germany and Belgium last month at least 20% more likely to happen in the region, scientists said Tuesday, writes Isla Binnie, Reuters.

The downpour was likely made heavier by climate change as well. A day of rainfall can now be up to 19% more intense in the region than it would have been had global atmospheric temperatures not risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures, according to research published by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) scientific consortium.

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"We will definitely get more of this in a warming climate," said the group's co-leader Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford.

"Extreme weather is deadly," said Otto, recalling that she urgently contacted family members who live in the affected areas to make sure they were safe when the floods hit. "For me it was very close to home."

With extreme weather events dominating news headlines in recent years, scientists have been under increasing pressure to determine exactly how much climate change is to blame.

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During the last year alone, scientists found that U.S. drought, a deadly Canadian heat wave and wildfires across the Siberian Arctic have been worsened by a warming atmosphere.

The July 12-15 rainfall over Europe triggered flooding that swept away houses and power lines, and left more than 200 people dead, mostly in Germany. Dozens died in Belgium and thousands were also forced to flee their homes in the Netherlands. Read more.

"The fact that people are losing their lives in one of the richest countries in the world -- that is truly shocking," said climate scientist Ralf Toumi at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study. "Nowhere is safe."

Although the deluge was unprecedented, the 39 WWA scientists found that local rainfall patterns are highly variable.

So they conducted their analysis over a wider area spanning parts of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. They used local weather records and computer simulations to compare the July flooding event with what might have been expected in a world unaffected by climate change.

Because warmer air holds more moisture, summer downpours in this region are now 3-19% heavier than they would be without global warming, the scientists found.

And the event itself was anywhere from 1.2 to 9 times -- or 20% to 800% -- more likely to have occurred.

That broad range of uncertainty was partly explained by a lack of historical records, WWA explained, and worsened by the floods destroying equipment that monitored river conditions. Read more.

Still, the "study confirms that global heating has played a big part in the flooding disaster," said Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist and oceanographer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who was not involved in the study.

"This is in line with the finding of the recent IPCC report, which found that extreme rainfall events have increased worldwide," he added, referring to a U.N. climate panel's findings. Read more.

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Seven residents of Belgian nursing home die after outbreak of B.1.621 lineage of COVID-19

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Seven residents of a nursing home in Belgium have died after being infected with a lineage of the coronavirus first detected in Colombia despite being fully vaccinated, the virology team that conducted tests said on Friday (6 August), writes Sabine Siebold, Reuters.

The virology team said the residents had been infected with the B.1.621 lineage of COVID-19 that originated in Colombia and has been detected in recent weeks in the United States but cases in Europe have been rare.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has listed the B1.621 lineage as part of the Kappa variant of the coronavirus, but not as a variant itself.

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The seven people who died at the nursing home in the Belgian town of Zaventem, near Brussels, were all in their 80s or 90s, and some of them were already in a poor physical condition, said Marc Van Ranst, a virologist at the University of Leuven which conducted tests on the virus found at the nursing home.

"It is worrisome," Van Ranst said, commenting on the fact that the residents died despite being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

So far, scientists do not know if the B.1.621 lineage is more transmissible than other lineages or variants of the coronavirus, he said.

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In Belgium, B.1.621 currently accounts for less than 1% of known cases of COVID-19, he said, compared to 2% of cases in the United States and more than that in Florida.

At the nursing home in Zaventem, 21 residents were infected with the variant along with several members of staff, Van Ranst told Reuters. The infected staff experienced only mild symptoms.

Van Ranst said the dominant coronavirus variant in Belgium with around 95% of infections is the Delta, first discovered in India, followed by the Alpha that was previously dominant in Britain.

Additional tests will be run on Friday to rule out any possibility that the nursing home residents died from a different variant of the virus or a different respiratory disease, Van Ranst said.

"It is unlikely but not impossible," he said.

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