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    Coronavirus: Belgium extends lockdown until 3 May

    Credit: Belga

    Belgium will extend its lockdown deadline until 3 May in the fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19), announced Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès during a press conference on Wednesday.

    On Tuesday, the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES), which has to ease the country out of the lockdown, handed over its first report to the government. Following that report, and a meeting with Belgium’s National Security Council, joined by the country regions’ Minister-Presidents, Wilmès announced Belgium’s new shutdown deadline, and clarified several other measures.

    -The lockdown measures will be extended until 3 May.

    -Garden centres and do-it-yourself stores are allowed to reopen, under the same conditions of social distancing as ordinary food stores.

    -Residents of residential care centres may receive one visitor, designated in advance, provided that this person has had no symptoms of illness in the last 2 weeks, and that each time this person is the same.

    -There will be no mass events, such as summer festivals, until at least 31 August.

    -The police will continue to fine people who violate the measures.

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    Face masks will also play an important role in strategies to relax the measures. As they will be phased out, face masks will be recommended for any situation where safe distance cannot be maintained. However, they can never be a guarantee that can replace distance keeping.

    “This is not a relaxation of the rules,” said Wilmès. “The basic rules remain unchanged until 3 May, and must be respected,” she added.

    “Today, no one can say when we will restart our normal lives. There is still a long way to go. Our willpower will be put to the test again and again. Let us not be discouraged. We are still counting on your citizenship and your common sense,” Wilmès said.

    “What we can do, we can also undo, and vice versa. Everything will depend on the results of the measures and the extent to which they are complied with,” she added.

    Next week, a new National Security Council will take place, with the aim to organise the progressive relaxation from the beginning of May.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times