Restrictions on contacts, limited public and private gatherings: Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès on Monday announced a step-up in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, ahead of an increase in “worrying” cases in the country, especially in the province of Antwerp.
Belgium announced on Monday, 27 July, a further tightening of measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which aims to “avoid generalized recapture”.
“The epidemiological data is worrying and we are very concerned,” said Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès at a news conference following a National Security Council meeting. She expressed particular “serious concern” about “a major epidemiological burn” in Antwerp (north).
Against this situation, the number of people that Belgians get to see carefully and regularly as part of their “contact bubble” has decreased from 15 to 5 people per household from Wednesday and for the next four Weeks.
In addition, private gatherings (receptions, family reunions, wedding parties, etc.) are limited to a maximum of 10 people (not including children under 12 years).
Public events will be limited to 100 people indoors (instead of 200) and 200 outdoors (instead of 400), and masks are mandatory.
Teleworking “is highly recommended whenever possible”, Sophie Wilmès continued, lamenting that it is “less and less used”. The Belgians are also urged to shop alone and limit them to 30 minutes.
Reinforced measures had already entered into force on 25 July, in particular the mandatory wearing of the mask in places with high traffic (markets, shopping streets …). The mask has been mandatory since July 11 in public transport, shops, cinemas, services, museums and libraries.
“Patience” and “courage”
The Prime Minister called on the Belgians to be “patient” and “brave”. “All of these measures are taken to avoid extensive re-inclusion and to avoid the risk of the re-entry period in September,” she said.
“They must be respected at all ages, in all situations,” she urged, while most infections occur in those under 60.
The previous containment was “extreme attempt for most of our citizens” and “we are at the dawn of an unprecedented economic crisis”, she stressed, explaining the need to avoid a new “lockdown”.
The announcement of the new measures led to the mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, announcing the suspension of the Foire du Midi, the capital’s largest amusement park.
On average, 279 people a day got a Covid-19 infection in the last week, up from 163 the previous week.
The situation is particularly problematic in the province of Antwerp, which registered 47% of new infections last week. The Prime Minister called on local authorities to take “strong action” quickly.
The country had 66,026 cases listed since the pandemic began and 9,821 deaths on Monday.
Belgium is one of the countries with the most deaths from Covid-19 compared to its population, with 85 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
The authorities’ census of deaths from the new coronavirus is one of the most exhaustive in the world because the deaths that may be linked to the virus are included without this having been proven by a test.