Belgium Limits Social Contacts to Five as Infection Rate Soars


Belgium enforced tough restrictions on social interactions again as it battles fresh outbreaks of the coronavirus that have multiplied in the past two weeks.

Each household is allowed to have leisurely contact with no more than five other persons for the next four weeks starting Wednesday, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said in Brussels. That’s a reduction from 15 per week, which was on an individual basis. The epidemic situation in the city of Antwerp, home to Europe’s second-biggest port, will require “forceful” action from local authorities, according to Wilmes, who said the restrictions should help the country steer clear from a new lockdown.

“We’re touching individual liberties. That’s a tough message,” Wilmes told reporters. “But the virologists tell us a lot of infection clusters are linked to parties, marriages and the like.”

Belgium has been confronted with a resurgence of the epidemic since mid-July following two months of gradual reopening at a time when the average number of daily infections never dropped below 80. Antwerp, the most populous city of Belgium’s Dutch-speaking northern region of Flanders, has been hit the hardest, with a rate of 108 weekly infections per 100,000 inhabitants. About 17% of Belgium’s 581 municipalities have now crossed the threshold of 20 weekly infections per 100,000 inhabitants set by health officials to signal excessive spread.

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