Eat out, work out, see a film: Belgium to ease lockdown – Metro US

Eat out, work out, see a film: Belgium to ease lockdown

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brussels
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brussels

By Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Belgium plans to ease nearly all lockdown measures from June 9 provided the country’s vaccination campaign keeps up its momentum and the number of people in intensive care units remains under 500, the government said on Tuesday.

The plans to reopen mark a turnaround for Belgium, home to NATO and the European Union headquarters. It has one of the world’s highest per capita death rates from COVID-19, but its vaccination drive is now among the most efficient in the bloc.

“The more people are vaccinated, the faster we will get our freedom back,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference.

He said all sectors could reopen then if 80% of the population with a pre-existing medical condition could be vaccinated and the maximum number of people in intensive care units was 500.

He called on Belgians to get vaccinated and said the goal was for all measures to disappear on Sept. 1.

Already, from June 9, Belgians will be able to dine at restaurants until 10pm and outdoor terraces will remain open until 11.30pm.

Large events will be authorised, such as shows, exhibitions and theatres with a maximum of 200 people permitted inside.

Outside, up to 400 people will be allowed to attend events, such as festivals and the outdoor screening of the 2020 European soccer competition postponed last year, while weddings will be possible indoors for up to 100 and outdoors for 200 guests.

Masks and social-distancing will still be required for large events wherever they are held.

Fairs, flea markets, saunas, casinos, bowling alleys, parks, fitness centres, gyms, sports training and competitions will reopen, with improved ventilation systems if they are indoor.

Belgians will also be allowed back into offices one day per week.

Since a national lockdown at the start of the year, the health situation in Belgium, where more than 24,000 people have died from COVID-19, has improved.

The seven-day average of daily infections stands at just under 3,000, a 4% drop from last week, and more than 3.6 million Belgians, almost 40% of the adult population, have received a first dose of vaccine.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Barbara Lewis)