BRUSSELS | Cafés and restaurants will close in Belgium from Monday for four weeks and a curfew will be in place from midnight to 5 a.m. in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus which “is skyrocketing”, Prime Minister Alexander De announced Friday evening. Croo after a government crisis meeting.
“Week after week, the figures are doubling, they are soaring (…) it is an exponential increase”, justified the Flemish liberal leader, while Belgium is one of the European countries most bereaved by the pandemic (more of 10,300 dead).
In order to “avoid the worst”, he announced a series of new restrictions for social life, the most spectacular of which is the total closure of the Horeca sector (restaurants and cafes) for four weeks from Monday. An evaluation of the measure will take place mid-term, said De Croo, and there will be economic support from the public authorities.
Until now, the closure of cafes only concerned the Brussels region and ran until the beginning of November. The measure is therefore extended to the whole country and also concerns restaurants, which sector officials immediately described as a “disaster”.
Other measures: the sale of alcohol will be prohibited from 8 pm and any exit on public roads prohibited between midnight and 5 am, “a curfew” intended to prevent private parties.
It is still possible to invite four people at home on condition of respecting the distances, as announced a week ago, but the so-called “close” contact (without a mask) is now limited to a single person away from home.
For the Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke, “the situation is extremely serious” from a health point of view, “we must avoid a total slippage in health care”.
Belgium, a country of 11.5 million inhabitants, recorded 191,959 cases of coronavirus and 10,327 deaths on Friday, making it one of the European countries most bereaved by the pandemic reported to its population.
As a consequence of the sharp rebound in infections since September, especially among students, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths (especially affecting the elderly and frail) has clearly accelerated in recent days.
The Brussels region and several French-speaking provinces had to activate the second level (out of four in total) of the national emergency plan providing for reserving 50% of hospital beds in intensive care for “COVID patients”.
“Our hospitals are congested (…), the figures are as high as they were in March when we decided on a lockdown (confinement, Editor’s note)” for two months, told the channel RTBF the Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet.
Several ministers insisted on the need to “absolutely” avoid the re-containment and closure of schools, hence the severity on public and private gatherings.
Companies must continue to operate, but “teleworking is becoming the norm for functions that allow it”, also said Alexander De Croo.
The cultural sector (theaters, cinemas, etc.) will be able to continue its activity by strictly respecting the existing health protocols and the “gauges” set up in the theaters.