Covid-19: Belgium tightens restriction but shies away from full lockdown

Cinemas, theaters and concert halls will be closed, indoor activities banned


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Published: Wed 22 Dec 2021, 10:52 PM

Last updated: Wed 22 Dec 2021, 10:53 PM

Belgium will further tighten coronavirus restrictions because of the surging omicron variant, authorities announced Wednesday, but the country shied away from a full lockdown like in the neighbouring Netherlands.

Cinemas, theaters and concert halls will be closed and indoor activities banned in Belgium. Sports fans won’t be allowed into stadiums and indoor venues. Shopping will be curtailed with visitors spread out and groups entering a shop limited to two adults, possibly accompanied by children.

Bars and restaurants will be allowed to remain open until 11pm but under limits. And families were advised to keep visitors to a minimum for Christmas but did not face exact limits.


The measures will take effect Sunday. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said “there is reason for concern. We are facing omicron.”

He added that “what we know about it is bad news,” referring to omicron’s high transmissibility.

“It is a tough package,” virologist Marc Van Ranst said.

But much about the omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness.

The Belgian measures came despite a strong and steady decline in new Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions. The government said, however, that the lightning fast transmission of omicron made it necessary to take action earlier rather than later.

“It will be dominant soon,” said De Croo. “We have to be more careful that ever.”

Emmanuel Andre, who heads Belgium’s Covid-19 reference lab, said omicron represented 27 per cent of new cases, doubling in as many days.

Since last weekend, Belgium’s northern neighbour, The Netherlands, has closed all nonessential stores, bars and restaurants until Jan. 14 and shut schools and universities until Jan. 9.

Belgium’s major carnival, in Aalst, was canceled even if the festival drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year was slated for late February.

Belgium’s daily new Covid-19 cases have declined 36 per cent over the week ending Sunday, to reach about 8,300 in the nation of 11 million. Hospital admissions have declined 34 per cent to reach 173 a day.

The number of Covid-19 dead has surpassed 28,000.

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