Belgium announces second coronavirus lockdown

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced a national “reinforced” lockdown starting Monday, with shops deemed non-essential to close and family visits outlawed. A planned school holiday will be extended until November 15.

“We took the decision of a reinforced lockdown,” De Croo said. “These are the last-chance measures.”

At a press conference Friday, De Croo said that visits to the homes of family and friends will no longer be allowed, and only one close contact will be allowed outside the household. There is an exception for people who live alone, who are allowed to have close contact with two people from outside their household.

Teleworking will become mandatory. If it is not possible to work from home, wearing a face mask in the workplace is compulsory and ventilation must be guaranteed.

All schools will remain closed until November 15 (the week beginning November 2 is a planned holiday). After that, children at kindergartens and primary schools will be allowed to attend school as normal. Secondary schools in the second and third grades will provide distance learning for half of their students; the other half will attend on-site.

University courses will be held virtually at least until December 1. After that, first-year students will be allowed to attend on-site.

Non-essential shops, including hairdressers, will close starting Monday.

Funerals can take place with up to 15 people, without a ceremony afterward.

Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that “this is going to bring our social life to a complete standstill. That’s hard, that’s a lockdown.”

The restrictions come days after France announced a second lockdown.

Belgium has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in Europe. The country has been struggling to come up with a unified and coordinated approach to the pandemic, and has been juggling the economic interests of the north of the country with the situation in southern Wallonia, the worst-hit region.



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