Belgium will implement new restrictions to stop the further spread of the coronavirus instead of further relaxing the measures, announced Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès during a press conference on Thursday.
“Since last week, the average infection rate has increased considerably. The reproduction number has also risen above 1 since last week. This indicates that the epidemic is flaring up again,” said Sophie Wilmés.
“Young adults between 20 and 30 are the most frequently affected. Although the number of infections is increasing throughout the country, we also see more local flare-ups,” she added.
What this means is that Belgium will not enter into Phase 5 of its exit plan out of lockdown from August. This means that the maximum number of people allowed at events will not be increased. Fairs and shows will not be able to resume before 1 September.
From Saturday 25 July, wearing a face mask will now be mandatory in more public places, such as busy shopping streets, markets and in public buildings. When going to the bathroom in a restaurant, you will also need to wear a mask.
The closing hour of night shops will be brought forward to 10:00 PM, but the closing hour for cafes and bars remains unchanged.
Clients in restaurants, cafes and bars will be asked to leave an email address or telephone number. This info will be destroyed after 14 days. A standard form for this will be available by Saturday.
The contact bubble of 15 people per week remains, but Wilmès stressed that it is important that people do not see more people than that.
Mayors of cities and municipalities will be able to take additional measures themselves, to combat localoutbreaks more effectively. These measures can range from requiring face masks in additional places to implementing a local lockdown, in extreme cases.
All returning travellers will need to fill in a form 48 hours before they arrive back in Belgium. The traffic light system does not change. People returning from an orange zone will be asked to be tested and quarantine. For people returning from a red zone, this is mandatory.
“It’s a blow to our morale but we must take action today so that we have no regrets tomorrow. We must act collectively. Everyone is an actor in this crisis,” said Wilmès. “These rules are not advice but instructions,” she added.
“And as always, take care of yourself, and take care of others,” said Wilmès. “And the best way to do that is by following the measures,” she added.