Brussels, Oct 31 (IANS) The Belgian government has announced that a national lockdown will be imposed on Monday after the country was reported to have the highest Covid-19 infection rate in Europe.
Under the new lockdown, non-essential shops and businesses offering personal services like hair salons will remain closed across Belgium until the middle of December, the BBC reported.
While gatherings in public spaces will be limited to a maximum of four people, supermarkets will be allowed to sell only essential goods.
Households will be permitted to have just one visitor and the incumbent night-time curfew measures and closures of bars and restaurants will continue.
In a statement on Friday, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke allayed fears, saying the new lockdown “will not plunge people into isolation”.
“It’s a lockdown, but a lockdown that allows factories to operate, that will allow schools to open cautiously,” the BBC quoted Vandenbroucke as saying.
While announcing the new measures, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the country “finds itself in a health emergency”, adding: “These are last-chance measures if we want to get the figures down.”
In the first Covid-19 wave earlier this year, Belgium suffered one of the highest death rates in the world.
It now has the highest infection rate in Europe with more than half of the 2,000 beds in its intensive care units (ICU) already occupied by infected patients.
In the last two week, the country witnessed 1,600 new cases and 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Belgium’s overall caseload has increased to 412,314 as of Saturday, while the death toll stood at 11,452.