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“Belgium’s virus reproduction number is above 1”

Belgium’s national security council, grouping the country’s federal and devolved governments, shied away from any further relaxations just yet as PM Wilmès noted: “Since the beginning of the month the virus has started to rebound.  The situation mustn’t get any worse”. The PM gave the first official confirmation the epidemic is widening.

The council will meet again next Thursday to consider any relaxations on 1 August.

Speaking at a news conference the prime minister underlined that face coverings are now obligatory in shops, cinemas, theatres, gaming halls, lecture theatres, casinos, libraries and places of worship.  The obligation may be extended to other locations if the health situation necessitates.

The PM noted that the R-number, the number of people infected by one infected person, has now risen above 1 meaning that the epidemic is increasing.  Phase 5 of the exit strategy was supposed to start on 1 August, but will be delayed if the trend goes against us.

“If we need to introduce more stringent measures in future, we are ready” Ms Wilmès said.

With regard to foreign travel the PM pointed to the importance of the colour-coded traffic light system used to identify the threat in foreign countries despite the fact the system seemed to descend into farce on Tuesday.  Ms Wilmès urged everybody to follow the rules on return and on their trip. “The virus doesn’t act differently abroad’ she said.

A recommendation for people returning from amber-coded areas to take a test on their return and self-isolate was watered down to a requirement for increased vigilance on Tuesday morning only for the previous recommendations to be reinstated in the afternoon.

Looking ahead to a possible second wave the PM said the best preparation was to try and avoid it: “The Belgium of today is not the Belgium of pre-February.  We have built up an impressive expertise in only a couple of months.”

Rising levels of coronavirus have allowed the Belgian foreign ministry to take Sweden off its red list for countries where levels of the virus are significantly higher.  From today Sweden is now amber-coded.  This means quarantine on return is no longer mandatory, but recommended.  The same goes for a corona test.  Travel to Sweden is once again permitted after being banned only at the weekend.  Norway too has now opened its borders to people travelling from Belgium.

For the latest travel advice and information on what to do on your return head to the Belgian foreign ministry website that is updated daily at 16:00 CEST.

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