New restrictions come into force in Belgium in response to Omicron spread

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In Belgium a flurry of restrictions came into force Sunday in a bid to reopen schools after the Christmas holidays and ease tension on the health care system, as Omicron variant cases of coronavirus doubled over the past two days.

Indoor venues such as cinemas, theaters, concert halls and conferences will have to close their doors as of Sunday, and public access to stadiums, sporting events and outdoor venues under tents will be banned. Outdoor Christmas markets can stay open with restrictions on capacity, but amusement parks will be required to close. But museums, libraries and sports facilities will be allowed to remain open.

Also, people will be allowed to go shopping only in pairs, excluding children.

Despite an earlier call by an expert advisory panel for the hospitality industry to close earlier, at 8 p.m., restaurants and bars will continue to be allowed to stay open until 11 p.m. Teleworking will continue with a maximum of one day per week in-person attendance.

Belgium’s hospitals received an average of 173 COVID-19 patients per day between December 15-21, according to the national health institute. Some 709 people are in intensive care. Seventy-six percent of Belgium’s population aged 12 and above is fully vaccinated with two doses, and 31 percent of that population has received a booster jab. 

The Belgian Consultative Committee will reconvene in early January to review COVID-19 measures based on the current pandemic situation.

Photo – A Christmas tree is reflected in a puddle at the Grand Place square in Brussels, Belgium. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

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