Belgium tightens rules amid escalating COVID-19

Belgium tightens rules amid escalating COVID-19

Brussels Belgium extended the use of face masks and mandatory remote work on Wednesday in a bid to contain a new wave of COVID-19 cases.

“The warning lights are flashing red,” Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo said.

The prime minister added that the mandatory use of face masks in crowded places will now include those aged 10 or over, and that remote work, when possible, will be mandatory for 4 days in the 5-day work week until December 12.

So far, face masks have been limited to those 12 and over and remote work has been a recommendation only, but not mandatory. He said special rules adapted to schools to combat COVID-19 are imminent.

The government has also strengthened rules in nightclubs, restaurants and bars, adding that masks or a negative virus test will be required as well as mandatory screening for a full vaccination status.

“If we want to avoid another shutdown, we have to show a sense of responsibility,” de Croo said.

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The measures mirror similar measures taken in several European countries where the virus has spread again over the past week. The World Health Organization says Europe is the only region in the world with high COVID-19 deaths.

Cases of coronavirus in Belgium, which has a population of 11 million, increased by 27% over the past week and reached more than 10,000 cases a day. Hospitalizations increased by 21% during the same period while the use of intensive care beds increased by 28% to 557.

Belgium is once again facing the coronavirus crisis even though 76.1% of the population has been vaccinated, including 88% of all adults, one of the highest rates in the 27 European Union countries.

De Croo said all efforts will now be made to expand the booster vaccination campaign for the entire population, which has so far been limited to vulnerable groups and medical personnel.

To improve the vaccination campaign, the government decided earlier this week to make vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers from next April.

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