Belgium announces new Covid restrictions, but prime minister vows to avoid lockdown

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  • The government said on Wednesday that workers should work from home again if possible.
  • Belgium, like other European countries, is facing a new surge in Covid-19 infections.
  • Prime Minister de Cru does not think that targeting non-vaccinated people in Belgium will work.

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BRUSSELS – Belgium is tightening social restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise, but Prime Minister Alexander de Crew told CNBC the aim is still to keep society open.

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“It’s not the same virus anymore. It’s a mutation of the virus, which is much more contagious,” the Belgian prime minister said in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

However, he added: “Our goal will be to keep society open to make sure our businesses stay open, to make sure our schools stay open, to make sure our hotels and restaurants and cafes stay open. But with added security.”

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The government on Wednesday asked people to work from home four days a week till mid-December and three days thereafter. In indoor locations everyone 10 years of age and older must wear a mask until they are seated. Nightclubs should also test guests so they can dance without masks.

The daily average of Covid infections in Belgium in the last seven days is 10,283. it’s not that high from last winter, Average daily hospital admissions currently stand at around 280, the highest since the start of spring.

It is a similar picture that is emerging across Europe. The Netherlands, Ireland, Slovakia and Austria are among countries that have recently reimposed some level of social restrictions.

But for Belgium’s De Cru, the answer to the current wave is not targeting the uneducated – as Austria has done.

“Comparing one country to another is always dangerous. If we compare our situation with Austria, for example, the vaccine in Austria is much lower than in Belgium,” de Crew said.

“Among the measures they are taking is a partial lockdown, focusing on people who have not been vaccinated. I am not sure it will be very efficient in Belgium because our situation is different here. A large majority, Much of the population is vaccinated,” he said.

According to data from Our World in Data, 74 percent of Belgium’s population has been fully vaccinated, which is higher than the European Union average. In Austria, only about 64% of the population has received a full dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some Belgian politicians are discussing whether vaccination should be made mandatory, but Prime Minister de Cru insists it is a “personal choice”.

“It’s also important to clarify that vaccination is a choice. It’s a wise choice. But it’s still a personal choice. I believe it’s always better to explain people with facts,” he said. .

Belgium is giving the booster to the older part of the population, but will soon expand it to more age groups.

“Within the next days, we will launch a larger campaign to make sure that the general public – so that even people under the age of 65 can have access to a booster shot,” de Crew told CNBC at the European Business Summit.

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