Belgium closes cafes and bars for a month in Brussels

Belgium closes cafes and bars for a month in Brussels as the country takes a step towards return to full coronavirus lockdown

  • Brussels cafes and bars will be closed and drinking alcohol in public banned
  • The latest round of measures will be in place until November 8, then re-assessed 
  • Belgium recorded an average of 2,500 new COVID-19 cases per day in past week
  • This represents a 57 per cent increase on the previous seven day period
  • Paris enforced similar measures yesterday, Madrid entered lockdown on Friday

The Belgian capital took a step towards restoring its coronavirus lockdown today when Brussels ordered cafes and bars to close for a month from Thursday.

Restaurants serving meals at tables will remain open, but bars and drinking alcohol in public will be banned until November 8, the regional government said, at which point the situation will be re-assessed. 

The news follows Paris taking similar measures by closing all its bars from Tuesday, and Spain ordering Madrid into another lockdown on Friday – becoming the first European capital to re-enter lockdown. 

Bars in Brussels will be forced to close again after local authorities imposed new coronavirus measures on the city. Pictured: Customers drinks beers at a bar in Brussels in June after the city relaxed its lockdown measures 

Minister-President of Brussels region Rudi Vervoort gives a press conference after a meeting to discuss tighter measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, at Brussels City Hall

Rudi Vervoort, premier of the Brussels region, told a news conference that bars and cafes would shut for a month from Thursday, even if they only sold tea or coffee. 

‘Serving alcohol is not the criteria here,’ he said. Authorities will decide at another meeting on Friday whether and how to keep schools and universities open.

This is the second time Brussels has imposed such a measure since the coronavirus outbreak, after a previous lockdown helped bring cases down. 

New infections – as well as serious cases involving hospital admissions – are rising again, and regional authorities are tightening rules. 

Brussels is second only to Madrid among the European Union’s 27 capital cities, Belgian health authorities said on Wednesday, with 502 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.  

Over the last 24-hours, Belgium has recorded 2,044 new infections and 14 deaths, taking the country’s total recorded coronavirus cases to 134,291 and total deaths to 10,092 – a figure which ticked past 10,000 last Wednesday.

Belgium is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections, seeing higher numbers of new daily cases now than during the first wave in March and April (pictured top). Over the last seven days, Belgium has recorded an average of over 2,500 new coronavirus cases per day – up from an average of 1,700 new daily cases the previous week – a 57 per cent rise

New daily deaths, meanwhile, have remained much lower than the spring peak, which at one point saw more than 500 deaths recorded in a single day. Over the past seven days, Belgium saw an average of 13 daily deaths – up from six and a half over the previous week

Over the last seven days, Belgium has recorded an average of around 2,500 new coronavirus cases per day – up from an average of 1,700 new daily cases the previous week – a 57 per cent rise.

The number of new deaths has also increased, with the past week regularly hitting double figures – averaging 13 daily deaths. The week before saw an average of six and a half Covid-related deaths per day.

While the average number of reported deaths are significantly lower than during the country’s first wave in the spring – which regularly saw over 200 deaths a day and peaked at over 500 – the number of daily cases are now reaching higher levels. 

On Saturday, Belgium recorded over 3,000 cases in one day for the first time since the start of the pandemic with 3,175, and broke the record again on Sunday with a further 3,389 new infections reported. 

Hospital admissions are also up 25.7 percent over the week, and with a population of 11.2 million, Belgium is one of the worst hit countries.

Similar patterns have been seen in Spain, France, the UK and other European countries, which have recorded a higher volume of cases during the second wave of infections than the first, but lower daily death figures.

Belgium’s new Prime Minister Alexander De Croo adjusts his protective mask as he holds a news conference on Tuesday after a committee to discuss bringing in new restrictive measures after a spike of coronavirus

The Belgian government tightened national measures nationwide on Tuesday, including the closure of bars at 11 p.m. and limiting social groups to no more than four people invited inside a home, seated at a single cafe table or gathered outside. 

Belgium’s new Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who assumed office on October 1, had announced new measures that apply to the whole country in a press release on Tuesday – giving local authorities the option to increase measures.

The release also announced the appointment of a COVID-19 Commissioner – Pedro Facon. 

Party venues, where health authorities said many infections occurred, will also have to shut down. No spectators will be allowed in sports centres to watch amateur sport.

Experts attribute the second wave of the pandemic in Belgium, like elsewhere in Europe, in part to people – especially the young – tiring of months of social distancing and other restrictions maintained to curb the spread of the virus.

The Brussels capital region is home to a densely packed 1.2 million people and is the seat of the Belgian government and of both NATO and the European Union. 

Belgium’s new coronavirus measures announced October 6

A press release from Belgium’s new Prime Minister Alexander De Croo unveiled the latest measures to be imposed on the whole country:

  • Close contacts: limited to a maximum of 3 close contacts per month . Close contact is contact with a person less than 1.50m away without a mask
  • Private gatherings at home: maximum 4 people , respecting safety distances or wearing a mask if this is not possible
  • Cafés, cafeterias and other places where drinks are served: maximum 4 people per table , with the exception of people living under the same roof
  • Gatherings not organised outside: maximum 4 people , except for people living under the same roof
  • Cafes closing time: 11:00 p.m.
  • Additional efforts in terms of awareness and respect so that these measures are applied everywhere
  • Telecommuting (working from home) is strongly recommended , several days a week

From Tuesday, Paris ordered all its bars to close for two weeks, but restaurants and bistros that serve alcohol are allowed to stay open if they follow strict coronavirus measures 

Pictured: Bar workers and owners set up a temporary bar in a Paris Metro Station on Tuesday to protest the new coronavirus restrictions that came into force on October 6

Paris closed all its bars on Tuesday for two weeks as the city’s coronavirus alert level is moved to maximum to combat its own rising case numbers. 

Restaurants and bistros that serve alcohol are allowed to stay open, provided they register all guests on a track and trace system, maintain social distancing, and close no later than 10pm. 

Working from home should be prioritised ‘now more than ever’, Prime Minister Jean Castex said, while university lecture halls should be no more than half full.

It comes after Paris breached the maximum alert threshold of more than 250 infections per 100,000 people, with more than 30 per cent of intensive care beds reserved for coronavirus patients. 

The city breached the criteria last week, but officials had been waiting to see if the situation improved before going ahead with extra measures.

Mr Castex announced on Sunday that extra measures would be needed, after the number of new cases kept rising. 

On Friday, Madrid became the first European capital to go back into lockdown following the latest coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Spanish government 

An employee a bar during Madrid’s latest lockdown lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, after the city became the first European capital to go back into lockdown, October 6

Some 4.8 million residents in the Spanish capital were barred from leaving the area after the city suffered one of the highest infection rates of any region in Europe, with 850 cases per 100,000 people according to the World Health Organization. 

The new rules, which started at 10pm on Friday, saw the city’s borders closed to non-essential travel, with parks and playgrounds shut, gatherings limited to six people and bars and restaurants ordered to close at 11pm.

The conservative-led Madrid area authority reluctantly complied with the order from the Socialist-led central government to ban travel except for school, work, health or shopping.

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