BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium, which has reined in the coronavirus after becoming the worst-hit mid-sized country in the world, reported zero new coronavirus-related deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday for the first time since March 10.
As in many European countries that were hard hit by the pandemic in March and April, Belgium sharply reduced infections by imposing a lockdown, which is now being lifted.
The total number of deaths reported by the national public health institute Sciensano remained at 9,787. In the country of 11.5 million people, that works out to around 850 deaths per million, the worst in the world apart from the tiny city state of San Marino. The peak daily death toll was 343 on April 12.
The curve of confirmed infections has flattened dramatically, with a total of 62,781, though the daily average of new cases in the last seven days, at 95, was up 11% from the previous week.
Facing a potentially risky summer with its citizens vacationing abroad, Belgium introduced a traffic-light system to determine where travellers can go and who should quarantine upon return.
As of Tuesday self-isolation and testing was mandatory for people returning from Sweden, Leicester in England, and areas of Spain and Portugal currently under a new lockdown. It is recommended for Bulgaria, Croatia, Luxembourg and Romania among others.
The list is updated daily but has drawn criticism from member states, including Luxembourg, Romania and Sweden, which have complained that travel restrictions are affecting the workings of EU institutions in Brussels, diplomats say.
Belgium is vastly more prepared than at the start of the year when skiing holidaymakers brought the new coronavirus back, health minister Maggie de Block said last week.
The government is meeting on Wednesday to discuss further easing of lockdown measures after making face masks mandatory in shops, cinemas and museums.
(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; Editing by John Chalmers and Angus MacSwan)