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Belgium strengthens coronavirus restrictions for next four weeks
Belgium has tightened its coronavirus measures for at least the next four weeks, with new limits on social contacts and events, after a 71% surge in new infections in the past week.
Prime minister Sophie Wilmès said the new restrictions were "very strong" - but were aimed at avoiding the introduction of a new stay-at-home order.
From 29 July, for four weeks minimum, social contacts must be limited to five people. This limit is per-household and no longer per-person - and the five people must remain the same for the whole four weeks. Children under 12 do not count towards the five-person limit.
"These are personal contacts with whom safety distances might not always be guaranteed," Wilmès said. "If you come into contact with people who are not part of this new social bubble, you must always respect the safety distances and it is recommended that you wear a mask."
Private events, such as family get-togethers and weddings, will be limited to 10 people. This figure includes the members of your household but, again, children under 12 are not counted.
The maximum audience at organised events has been halved. From Wednesday, it will be 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. Masks will be compulsory at all events.
Local authorities have been urged to thoroughly check that events abide by the rules and, if in doubt, they should be cancelled.
Shopping must be done alone again, unless accompanying children or a vulnerable person. The maximum shopping time of 30 minutes has also been reintroduced.
The requirement to collect contact details, currently applied by restaurants and cafes, will be extended to other venues such as sports clubs, hairdressers and beauty salons. The full list of applicable venues will be published shortly.
"The measures taken today are very strong. We need time to observe their effect. We ask for your patience," Wilmès said.
"These measures will be difficult to accept, but they have been made to avoid a lockdown. That is a situation that we absolutely want to avoid."
The restrictions announced today apply nationally. Other more localised measures are expected to be announced in due course, notably in Antwerp province, where the highest number of new infections has been recorded.