Belgium tightened its coronavirus rules on Friday as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, despite new measures introduced this week.
“The number of occupied beds in intensive care has doubled in one week. The red line has been crossed and that is of course very worrying,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a press conference. much worse than the worst-case scenario identified by the experts.”
The government will accelerate the rollout of COVID booster shots, giving priority to teachers. “If we had not had the vaccine, the situation would have been much more dramatic. But despite this, the situation in healthcare is not sustainable,” said De Croo.
Health ministers from across the country will meet on Saturday to discuss the timeline for the booster shot’s rollout.
“Our mission is very clear: we must take action to reduce the pressure in healthcare,” says De Croo, emphasizing the need to respect social distancing measures.
New test centers are opening and from December 2, a new website will serve as a replacement for the overwhelmed contact-and-tracing service
Working from home is mandatory four days a week until December 19, as opposed to December 12. From December 20, teleworking will be mandatory three days a week.
The obligation to wear a face mask is being expanded, including in schools, for children aged 10 and older. If two cases are identified in a class, all high-risk students should be tested. If there are three cases, classes can go into self-isolation.
Mixing of school classes should be avoided as much as possible and extracurricular activities should be prohibited.
In the hospitality industry, a curfew of 11 p.m. applies to restaurants. A maximum of six people are allowed per table, unless they belong to the same household. Christmas markets must also close at 11 p.m.
Public locations such as nightclubs, bars and concert halls where social distancing cannot be respected must close for the next four weeks, from this Saturday to December 15.
Private parties are prohibited except for weddings and funerals. For events attended by a minimum of 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors, a COVID pass is required. Supporters are not allowed in outdoor sports venues, except parents of children under the age of 18.
On Wednesday, all 10 provincial governors appealed to the Consultation Committee, who decides on the measures, to meet earlier than planned, because they consider the current measures “inadequate and incoherent”.
According to the National Health Institute, Belgian hospitals received an average of 303 COVID-19 patients per day between November 19-25. About 669 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care.
The Advisory Committee will meet again on 15 December.