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Belgium to reopen nightclubs, ease mask mandate as infections sink – Metro US

Belgium to reopen nightclubs, ease mask mandate as infections sink

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk on a
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk on a street in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium announced further easing of coronavirus restrictions on Friday to allow nightclubs to reopen and drop the requirement for primary school pupils to wear masks, as cases of the Omicron variant fell from an end-of-January peak.

“The successive waves have not been easy for us,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference, referring to back-to-back Omicron and Delta variant surges. “But we have got through them and we have got through them together.”

COVID-19 infections have fallen from a record 75,000 on Jan. 24 to an average of around 23,000 in the week to Feb. 7. Hospital admissions have also declined and the numbers of patients in intensive care was far lower than during previous waves.

From next Friday, nightclubs will be allowed to reopen, bars will be able to extend their hours beyond the current limit of midnight and end curbs on the number of customers per table and concerts will be possible with a standing audience.

Indoor access will still be largely based on a COVID pass, showing vaccination or a recent test or recovery from infection. Limits, from 70% to full capacity, will be based on the activity and the degree of ventilation.

Non-essential workers will also no longer need to work from home for at least four days a week and consumers will be able to go shopping in groups of more than two.

The easing of measures follows those already announced in Belgium’s neighbours. France has set in motion a gradual easing through February.

The Dutch government said on Thursday it aims to drop most coronavirus restrictions by the end of the month, but with COVID passes for access to many public places.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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