With coronavirus infections rising, Belgium Wednesday announced schools will close a week early for Easter and although shops will remain open, customers must make an appointment.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo described the measures as an “Easter pause.”
The government’s Consultative Committee judged that all non-essential stores can remain open. However, there will be strict limits on the number of customers allowed inside, depending on the size of the shop, and shopping can be by appointment only.
Close-contact services, such as hairdressers, nail bars and massage parlors, will have to close from Saturday.
Schools will close next week. The aim is to reopen after the Easter holiday on April 19. Nurseries will remain open, while daycare will be provided for children of parents working in essential services and for those who cannot work from home.
Meanwhile, outside gatherings are reduced to four people, plus any number of children aged 12 and under.
The Consultative Committee met Friday and delayed planned relaxation of some measures. But after recording a new high seven-day average of 221 hospitalizations on Monday and seeing a doubling of the number of cases every two weeks, the committee met again and decided on tougher measures.
“We have seen a persistent increase in contaminations and hospitalizations, we have seen that the pressure on intensive care has increased,” De Croo said at a press conference.
He said these were “heavy” decisions to take “but if we do not take them, the consequences will be even more serious.”