Belgium will cancel non-urgent operations and impose a ban on spectators at professional sporting events, as well as curbs on university courses and stricter limits on cultural events, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said today.
Belgium is struggling to deal with a surge in cases and has reported 930 infections per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, according to its public health body Sciensano. That’s the second worst in Europe after the Czech Republic.
De Croo called on Belgians to show solidarity in times of “national crisis.”
Under the new rules, which will apply from Friday until 19 November, professional sports will now take place in empty grounds, and amateur sports competitions are prohibited for participants aged over 18.
In universities, 20 percent of students will be allowed to attend on-site, while the rest must follow classes remotely. Half of first-year students can attend on-site.
Cultural events, like theaters, concert halls and cinemas, will not be allowed to exceed 200 spectators. Amusement parks will close but shops will stay open, including non-essential shops and hairdressers.
From Monday, non-urgent operations will be postponed for a month to free up hospital capacity. Urgent operations and life-saving treatments, such as chemotherapy and dialysis, will continue. This measure will be re-evaluated by November 6.
“There is no law, no rule that will be able to stop the virus: The duration of the measurements depends mainly on our behavior,” De Croo told reporters. “The only ones who can [stop it] is us.”
Earlier this week, Belgium scaled back testing to exclude people who are not showing symptoms. But despite warnings from experts over the last week, the new measures don’t amount to a full lockdown, which De Croo opposes.
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