Belgium postpones decision on move to Phase 5 easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Belgium postpones decision on move to Phase 5 easing of COVID-19 restrictions

In light of the recent increase in coronavirus cases in Belgium, the National Security Council (NSC), meeting here on Wednesday, decided to postpone for a week the decision whether to start Phase 5 of deconfinement from Aug. 1 as originally planned.

"On Thursday, July 23, we are going to evaluate (the situation) and see whether or not we can continue with Phase 5 (of deconfinement), and to do so, the situation must remain good," said Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes at the conclusion of the NSC meeting.

Phase 5 "could relax a number of measures from Aug. 1," the prime minister said. The number of social contacts allowed remains 15 people per individual per week.

The current epidemiological situation in Belgium does not seem favorable to relaxing the measures as foreseen in Phase 5. Over the last seven days, an average 96 people have been infected with COVID-19 per day, according to figures published on Wednesday by Belgian health institute Sciensano.

To date, 62,872 confirmed cases have been reported by Sciensano. Belgium has recorded 9,788 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Between July 5 and 11, the country saw "an 8 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week," Wilmes said.

"The reproduction number of COVID-19 is again above one, meaning that the epidemic is getting stronger. Even if it remains modest, this is not good," she added.

Wilmes called for caution. "Today we are saying be careful, the trend is not good, next week we will know what the situation is, and if this negative trend continues, we will not be able to proceed to Phase 5," she said.

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