Coronavirus: Antwerp imposes curfew, stronger restrictions in place


While nationwide restrictions increase, Antwerp province has introduced even stricter measures. The new rules apply for at least the next four weeks

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Antwerp province has imposed a late-night curfew, from 23.30 to 6.00, in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus. Non-essential outings are banned during these hours. Cafes and restaurants must close by 23.00.

Remote working is required except when it is impossible to do so. Masks must be worn in public at all times, except when eating or drinking. Team sports are banned, except for under-18s. Extra measures apply to the worst-affected parts of Antwerp province, including Antwerp city centre, where all events and festivals are cancelled until further notice, and where party venues and gyms must close.

These measures will be in force for at least four weeks. The governor of Antwerp province, Cathy Berx, said "Please do not come to Antwerp, for the sake of your own health and that of all those dear to you." She also urged Antwerp residents not to travel elsewhere in Belgium or abroad.

Nationwide, Belgium has further tightened its coronavirus measures. From 29 July, for four weeks minimum, social contacts must be limited to five people. This limit is per household and no longer per person, and the five people must remain the same for the whole four weeks. The maximum audience at organised events has been halved. From Wednesday, it will be 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. Masks will be compulsory at all events. Shopping must be done alone, unless accompanying children or a vulnerable person. The maximum shopping time of 30 minutes has also been reintroduced.

The requirement to collect customer contact details, currently applied by restaurants and cafes, will be extended to other venues such as sports clubs, hairdressers and beauty salons. The full list of applicable venues will be published shortly.

The province of West Flanders has decided not to take any further local measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. Its governor, Anne Martens, had been invited to Monday's National Security Council meeting, as the second most-affected province in Belgium behind Antwerp. "Our situation is not yet comparable to that of Antwerp," she said. "What's more, the figures have developed a little more favourably in the past week."

Zuidfoor cancelled

The Zuidfoor funfair has been cancelled by the City of Brussels. Mayor Philippe Close said: "We have a meeting with fairground representatives tomorrow (Tuesday) to explain our decision." Work was already under way to set up this year's funfair, which was due to open this Saturday. "We had put in place very strict measures to ensure that everything works well, with respect for the rules of distancing, wearing a mask, counting people,” said organiser Patrick De Corte. “We will take our trucks and demonstrate throughout Brussels. We have nothing more to lose."

The NMBS’s free 12-journey rail pass, promised by the federal government in June, will not be valid to use until September because of the current rise in coronavirus cases around the country. The online form to request the ticket should still be ready in early August. Initially it was due to be valid from 17 August. The free trips can be taken over a period of six months, at a rate of two journeys per month.

Please do not come to Antwerp, for the sake of your own health and that of all those dear to you

- Cathy Berx

The latest stats from Sciensano point to a 71% increase in average daily infections over the past week. KU Leuven virologist Marc Van Ranst has replaced Erika Vlieghe on the security council. Vlieghe stepped down last week. Van Ranst has been critical of recent government decisions, especially following last week's security council meeting.

A phishing SMS is doing the rounds, claiming that the security council has approved a grant for all Belgian residents to help them pay their bills due to the coronavirus crisis. It invites people to click on a link to a website, which is not official, and which asks for sensitive personal information.

Belgium's soon-to-launch coronavirus tracing app has a name: Coronalert. Produced by Brussels-based app developer Devside, it should be available from September.

"The measures taken today are very strong. We need time to observe their effect. We ask for your patience," prime minister Sophie Wilmès said. "These measures will be difficult to accept, but they have been made to avoid a lockdown. That is a situation that we absolutely want to avoid."

Photo: A cyclist wears a mask while cycling through the centre of Antwerp

(c) Belga/Dirk Waem

This article was updated on 28 July