BELGIUM has announced new social restrictions and is facing a renewed lockdown amid a spike in coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes has said people should again begin working from home where possible, saying she was “acting to keep the situation under control”.
Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes has asked people to begin working from home where possible[/caption]
The country has seen coronavirus cases begin to rise again in recent days[/caption]
Police patrol to ensure people are wearing masks where necessary in La Roche en Ardenne[/caption]
Infection rates across Belgium remained low throughout June and the first half of July, but have begun to rise again over the last two weeks.
Sunday saw 528 cases diagnosed, the largest rise in a single day since May 9.
The country has seen a total of 66,662 cases and 9,822 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
With a population of only 11.5million, it has seen one of the worst fatality rates per capita of any country in the world.
The new outbreak has been centred on the northern port city of Antwerp, an urban hub and Belgium’s most populous city.
Prime Minister Wilmes has said that, from today, a group living in a given household can, as a whole, meet only five people from outside that household over the next four-week period.
Each individual is currently allowed to meet up to 15 different people per week.
Face masks have also been made mandatory in crowded spaces, even outdoors, and bar and restaurant owners have begun taking patrons’ contact information.
“If we cannot reduce the coronavirus, it will be a collective failure,” Wilmes told reporters following a meeting of the country’s national security council on Monday.
“We know that if we do not intervene drastically, even the start of the school year could be undermined.
“We want to avoid the situation of March which was very trying on a human level, especially for the weakest among us.
“Our aim is clear – avoid another full lockdown,” Wilmes said.
“We are acting again today to keep the situation under control and to prevent a general lockdown.”
She added that she “very strongly recommended” people return to remote working where possible.
Antwerp province has imposed a curfew between 11.30pm and 6am, imposed tougher restrictions in restaurants and bars, and banned contact sports.
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The worst-affected areas across the region have also seen all leisure centres closed and larger events and festivals cancelled.
The measures are expected to stay in place for at least four weeks.
A sign asks people to wear masks in public[/caption]
A group visits the Plopsaland amusement park in Adinkerke on Saturday[/caption]
Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said she was ‘acting to keep the situation under control’[/caption]