Belgium Bans Sports Fans But Stops Short of Omicron Lockdown
(Bloomberg) -- Belgium stopped short of a new nationwide lockdown as it imposed sweeping curbs including bans on fans at sports games to halt the rapid spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19.
New measures will take effect from Dec. 26, including the cancellation of most indoor cultural events, such as movies and plays. Some venues will remain open, including fitness centers and museums, according to Wednesday’s decision.
“We’re not going into a lockdown,” Minister of Health and Social Affairs Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “We’re taking these measures precisely because we want to prevent that lockdown.”
Countries across Europe are introducing new measures to combat the advance of the omicron variant, which is now about 30% of cases in Belgium. Germany will limit gatherings to 10 people starting Dec. 28 in addition to existing curbs, meanwhile Austria will restrict quarantine-free travel from the U.K., Netherlands, Norway and Denmark and only allow in select travelers with a booster shot, and Finland and Denmark on Wednesday said they would require negative test results even from European Union arrivals.
This is the fourth round of restrictions imposed by Belgium over the past few weeks. Covid-19 case numbers began to decline after a surge in November following measures which included mandatory telework and a closing of nightclubs.
“We all hoped for a different Christmas this year,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. While the nation’s booster campaign “is going very well,” additional measures are needed amid the rapid spread of the new variant, said De Croo, who had an extra jab earlier Wednesday.
About 3.4 million people have received a booster dose so far in Belgium. Belgium currently counts about 8.8 million people who are fully vaccinated, out of a population of about 11.5 million.
On Monday, the country’s Interministerial Conference on Public Health approved Covid vaccination for children aged between 5 and 11, meanwhile primary schools closed a week earlier than usual for Christmas break last Friday.
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