It is “To avoid the worst”, in the words of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, that the Belgian government adopted, Friday, October 16, new measures to stem the Covid-19 epidemic. They will come into force on Monday, but experts have invited the population to anticipate them this weekend, in order to limit the spread of the virus.
Going back on decisions adopted barely nine days ago, and especially on easing measures taken at the end of August, the government decreed the closure of cafes and restaurants for a month and the establishment of a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. The sale of alcohol will be prohibited from 8 p.m., night shops will close at 10 p.m. and take-out sales in restaurants will have to cease at the same time.
Telecommuting is supposed to become the norm again wherever possible. One close contact – or “Cuddly contact”, according to the formula of the Minister of Health, Frank Vandenbroucke – per month, with a person outside the family environment, will now be authorized, for four so far. The Belgians can, moreover, receive only four people in their home, always the same, respecting the barrier gestures. Gatherings in public spaces will also be limited to four people, sporting events limited to 200 people.
The markets will remain open, but Christmas markets are already banned. The opening rules for the cultural sector are provisionally maintained but could be revised with the renegotiation of the current protocols.
General reconfinement envisaged
The epidemic is clearly experiencing a second wave, concede health authorities, and the situation is even judged ” out of control “ in Brussels, according to an official who spoke Friday morning on RTBF. The kingdom records, in any case, 90 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, which places it in the third world rank of the nations most affected by the new coronavirus. The situation in some hospitals, notably in Liège, has reached a critical point and it seems overall more alarming than in March-April.
“It will continue, we will live difficult days”, warned Mr. De Croo, while the Minister of Health evoked a situation “Quite terrible”. Before announcing their plan, negotiated – quite bitterly, it seems – with the regional powers, the federal authorities seemed not to rule out a generalized reconfinement. This could intervene if the situation continues to deteriorate: the effect of the latest measures adopted will be assessed in two weeks.
The government wants, for now, not to further penalize the country’s economy and to keep schools open. The situation in these however seems delicate with many contaminations of students and teachers. University education will, for its part, revert to distance learning, or even a complete ban on attendance in amphitheatres, as is already the case in Ghent.
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