The Belgian government has paused its planned easing of the country’s lockdown and brought in new restrictive measures after the daily infection rate hit numbers not seen since mid-May.
Of the 370 people newly tested positive on Monday, 32% were in the city of Antwerp but the relatively small size of the country has forced the government to block plans to allow large gatherings.
Belgium’s prime minister Sophie Wilmés said: “Since last week, the average infection rate has increased considerably. The reproduction number has also risen above 1 since last week. This indicates that the epidemic is flaring up again.
“Young adults between 20 and 30 are the most frequently affected. Although the number of infections is increasing throughout the country, we also see more local flare-ups”.
From Saturday, wearing a face mask will be mandatory in an increased number of public places including busy shopping streets, markets and in public buildings. People in a restaurant will also need to use a mask when visiting the bathroom and they will be required to leave an email address or telephone number.
With the holiday season in full flow, all returning travellers will have to complete a form within 48 hours of arrival in Belgium.
Wilmes said: “It’s a blow to our morale but we must take action today so that we have no regrets tomorrow. We must act collectively. Everyone is an actor in this crisis,” said Wilmès.
She added: “These rules are not advice but instructions. And as always, take care of yourself, and take care of others. And the best way to do that is by following the measures”.
Some good news: Scientists in New Zealand say the country has the lowest Covid-19 death rate in the OECD group of wealthy nations, with four confirmed deaths from the virus per million inhabitants of the nation.
That compares with five deaths per million people in Australia, 666 deaths per million in the UK, and 428 deaths per million in the US. Belgium had the highest death rate, with 845 deaths per million population.
If New Zealand had reported the average death rate among the OECD’s 37 member countries, the Otago University researchers say, 990 people would have died. The country’s actual death toll was 22, with fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases.
New Zealand is the only OECD country that has recorded more than 28 days with no known community transmission of the virus. There are 21 active cases of the virus, all diagnosed in returning travelers, who are in managed isolation facilities.
Global report: Red Cross warns of big post-Covid-19 migration as WHO hits back at US
The coronavirus crisis could spark huge waves of fresh migration once borders reopen, the head of the Red Cross has warned. It comes as the WHO’s chief accused the US of making “untrue” and “unacceptable” claims against the global health body.
The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Jagan Chapagain, said he was deeply concerned about the secondary effects of the pandemic, as border closures and Covid-19 restrictions have driven millions into poverty.
“Increasingly we are seeing in many countries the impacts on the livelihoods and the food situation,” he said in an interview with Agence France-Presse.
Many people are already faced with the choice of risking exposure to the novel coronavirus or going hungry, Chapagain said, warning that the desperation being generated could have far-reaching consequences.
“What we hear is that many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move,” he said. “We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years.”
A fund set up by 1917 director Sam Mendes to help theatre freelancers hit by the impact of Covid-19 has raised £1.6m, but industry figures have said more support is needed to avoid an exodus of workers from the sector.
The Theatre Artists Fund, which was launched at the start of July with a £500,000 donation from Netflix, has had more than 4,000 applications in less than a month and will provide one-off grants of £1,000.
Mendes said the fund had received donations from actors and writers including Michaela Coel, Armando Iannucci and Imelda Staunton, with £85,000 in donations coming – in part – from members of the public. But despite the support, Mendes said the grants would provide assistance to only a small fraction of the freelancers who made up 70% of theatre’s workforce: