The province of Antwerp will extend a coronavirus ban on all Christmas markets and public end-of-year festivities beyond Christmas and the New Year.
In a dispatch to provincial police zones and mayors, Antwerp Governor Cathy Berx said the ban will last until 31 January 2021.
"The current situation requires a drastic reduction of social contacts and it is necessary to continue to prohibit activities that involve too close contact between individuals and bring a large number of people together, such as Christmas markets," she said.
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The ban also includes all winter and holiday villages and animations like ice skating rinks, both indoors and outdoors.
In her letter to mayors and police, the governor said that the virus' circulation in the Flemish province was still "particularly strong and continuous," and cited a positivity rate of nearly 20% and an incidence rate (the number of new cases/100,000 inhabitants) above 1,000."
Berx on Monday was the first provincial authority to quash prospects that the ban would be lifted by the 13 December deadline decided by federal authorities.
In the summer, as coronavirus infections spiralled in the country's most populous region, Berx was also the first to resort to imposing a late-night curfew to bring the infection rate under control.
While the federal government said all current coronavirus measures imposed country-wide —including shop closures, mandatory telework and the ban in question— would be revised ahead of the mid-December deadline, Berx warned that restrictions would need to apply beyond that date.
"Scientific models show that the date of 13 December, 2020 will not be enough to sufficiently contain the exponential growth of positive infections," she said, De Standaard reports.
Earlier in November, the City of Brussels also announced it would cancel this year's edition of Winter Wonders, the country's largest holiday market, due to concerns over the spread of the pandemic.
The Brussels Times