Belgium cleared the way for indoor dining and drinking next week as an acceleration of COVID-19 vaccinations reduced strain on hospitals and allowed a further easing of restrictions.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference on Friday that from June 9, restaurants and bars can stay open later until 11:30 p.m. and serve customers in indoor spaces for the first time since closures late last year.
The Euro 2020 soccer championship, where Belgium are among the favourites, kicks off next week, with many evening matches.
The measures reflect the success of a vaccination campaign that has so far given one in every two adults a first dose.
Gyms, cinemas and theatres can reopen for the first time in more than half a year, albeit with strict limits, and Belgians may return to work one day a week and have more people in homes.
De Croo also gave details of how Belgium will handle European Union-wide coronavirus certificates to allow travel this summer. Belgium will pay for two of the COVID-19 tests that will be a condition to travel for those not fully vaccinated.
Those returning to Belgium from high-risk zones outside the EU will still have to quarantine and take PCR tests, even if they are vaccinated, De Croo said.
The accelerated pace of vaccinations since April has sharply cut hospital admissions and numbers needing intensive care. Still, the death toll in Belgium, home to EU institutions and the NATO military alliance, is almost 25,000, among Europe’s highest per capita.
Photo: A restaurateur sets up his terrace to welcome customers next to a bar in Brussels city center, Belgium. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ