Antwerp imposes curfew as coronavirus cases surge

Antwerp imposes curfew as coronavirus cases surge
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A curfew will be imposed on the entire territory of the province of Antwerp as authorities race to contain a steady surge in new coronavirus cases.

Stopping short of imposing a new all-out lockdown, authorities decided that all residents in the province must be home from 11:30 PM to 6:00 AM.

Following a marathon 10-hour crisis cell meeting, Antwerp's provincial governor, Cathy Berx also announced that face masks would be mandatory in all public spaces for all residents above 12.

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The curfew will mean that all restaurants, bars, cafés and other establishments will have to close their doors by 11:00 PM and will have to more strictly enforce a social distance of 1.5 metres between customers.

The new rules will be put in place for the upcoming four weeks and coincide with an overall tightening of measures to fight the coronavirus across Belgium's territory.

In a drastic departure from previous relaxations, the National Security Council on Monday slashed social contacts down to five fixed persons per households, down from the previous 15 different people per week.

Telework was again made mandatory in the entire province for all jobs which allow it and stricter rules for shopping will mean customers must again shop alone and remain in a shop for no more than 30 minutes, expect for people needing assistance.

Additionally, individual and team contact sports were also banned for everyone over the age of 18.

In the city of Antwerp, authorities also rolled out six new measures to fight the area's surging case-count, including the obligation for everyone over 12 to always carry a face mask with them.

City authorities also banned the sale of alcohol from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM and prohibited the sharing of drinks and the use of hookahs in specialised lounges.

All fitness centres in the city and in over a dozen of its surrounding municipalities will have to shut their doors, and all public events are prohibited.

As the number of new cases continues to grow across Belgium, the city of Antwerp has emerged as a hotbed for what experts fear might be a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The district of Antwerp alone accounts for around 55% of all new infections registered in recent days throughout Belgium.

Emerging from the hours-long crisis cell meeting, Governor Berx urged residents in the area to adhere to the new rules and pleaded to non-residents to steer clear of the area.

"For the sake of your health and that of your loved ones, don't come to the province of Antwerp and don't leave the province to go party elsewhere," Berx said.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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