Coronavirus: Belgium announces stricter rules amid surge in infections

‘Our aim is clear – avoid another full lockdown,’ prime minister says

Coronavirus in numbers

Belgium has announced a tightening of social restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus after a spike in infections.

Sophie Wilmes, the Belgian prime minister, said that from Wednesday a family or those living together can meet only the same five people from outside their household over the next four weeks.

This marks a drop from the 15 different people an individual is currently allowed to meet per week.

Under the new rules, the so-called “social bubble” applies to a house and its occupants and not to individuals.

“Our aim is clear – avoid another full lockdown,” Ms Wilmes said.

Belgium announced the sharp curbs on social contact on Monday following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past three weeks.

The numbers allowed to attend public events will also be halved to 100 for inside and 200 for outside.

Consumers will have to shop on their own and Ms Wilmes said people should work from home as much as possible.

“We are acting again today to keep the situation under control and to prevent a general lockdown,” the Belgian prime minister said, adding those infected appeared to be more contagious than when the country went into lockdown in mid-March.

The average number of cases in the past week has risen to 279 per day from around 80 in early July.

The northern port city of Antwerp has been particularly affected by Covid-19.

The province of Antwerp said it was imposing a curfew from 11.30pm to 6am, telling people most work must be done at home, adopting stricter controls in restaurants and bars and limiting team and contact sports.

In and around the city itself, no events or festivals would be allowed and fitness centres would have to close.

Belgium, a country with around 11.5 million inhabitants, has been particularly hard hit by the virus, with more than 66,000 cases and 9,821 deaths.

The nation has seen one of the world’s highest fatality rates per capita during the pandemic to date.

The Belgian government announced some other changes aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus last week, including making face masks compulsory for people in crowded outdoor spaces.

Bar and restaurant owners have also been told to register customer contact details.

Earlier this month, Belgium said anyone arriving from Leicester – the English city which was placed in a local lockdown as the rest of the country opened up – would have to quarantine for 14 days.

Additional reporting by agencies

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