BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium will tighten coronavirus restrictions at the end of the week, limiting groups to a maximum of four people in a bid to stem a sharp rise of COVID-19 infections.
New prime minister Alexander De Croo, who took office five days ago, told a news conference he was aware Belgians were tired of restrictions, but they had to stick to the rules to avoid a fresh lockdown.
Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that from Friday Belgians should limit to three the number of people outside their homes for whom they did not observe social distancing.
No more than four people should be invited inside a home, be seated at a single bar table or gather outside. Bars will all have to close at 11 p.m.
Belgians have been able to see up to five people without social distancing and be in groups of up to 10 people at a table in a bar or restaurant.
“People are tired, we know, but we are going to again ask for an effort for our children, so they can keep going to school, for our businesses, so they can keep functioning and so that people don’t lose their jobs,” Vandenbroucke said.
COVID-19 has claimed 10,078 lives in the country of 11 million people, producing one of the highest per capita fatality rates in the world.
The average daily number of new infections over a week passed 2,300 on Tuesday. Hospital admissions are also rising, as are deaths from the virus in the country, the home of European Union institutions and the headquarters of military alliance NATO.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott, Editing by William Maclean)