Belgium announce new national Lockdown as infection rates soar

Barney Davis
·1 min read
Medical workers treating patients in the intensive care unit at Erasme Hospital in Brussels. (AFP via Getty Images)
Medical workers treating patients in the intensive care unit at Erasme Hospital in Brussels. (AFP via Getty Images)

Belgium has announced a return to a national lockdown as the latest coronavirus figures show it has the highest infection rate in Europe.

Non-essential shops and businesses offering personal services like hair salons have been ordered to close from Monday until the middle of December.

As Covid-19 infections continued their record rise on Friday, the government also moved to restrict travel and shopping.

It will be mandatory for employees to work from home, if possible.

Family contact will also be reduced to an absolute minimum of one person outside the closest cluster for the next six weeks, while remote work will be mandatory.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Friday ranked Belgium as the worst affected nation in the 27-nation bloc, with 1,600 cases per 100,000 people.

France, with proportionally fewer than half the cases, announced a second, full nationwide lockdown on Wednesday.

People enjoy the view from Montmartre in Paris before the nightly curfewREUTERS
People enjoy the view from Montmartre in Paris before the nightly curfewREUTERS

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new month long national lockdown early next week.

Mr Johnson is said to have made the decision after scientists warned that half a million people were being infected with coronavirus each week.

Belgium's death rate is second only to the Czech Republic in the EU. More than 11,300 people have died in the country of around 11.5 million.

"We are going towards a reinforced confinement with only one goal: avoiding that health care services collapse," said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, as he announced the measures.

"It is now in our hands, it is in your hands. These really are the last-chance measures and it is up to all of us to make sure that these measures produce a result."

Hospitals and experts have long complained that Belgian measures were too lax over the summer, when the pandemic eased, and warned recently that unless there was a drastic lockdown the nation's once-vaunted health system would soon face breaking point.

Additional reporting by PA.