Belgium to tighten COVID rules to counter rise of omicron

Dec 22, 2021, 10:58 AM | Updated: Dec 23, 2021, 6:39 am

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium will further tighten coronavirus restrictions because of the surging omicron variant, authorities announced Wednesday, but the country shied away from a full lockdown like in the neighboring Netherlands.

Cinemas, theaters and concert halls will be closed and indoor activities banned in Belgium. Sports fans won’t be allowed into stadiums and indoor venues. Shopping will be curtailed with visitors spread out and groups entering a shop limited to two adults, possibly accompanied by children.

Bars and restaurants will be allowed to remain open until 11 p.m. but under limits. And families were advised to keep visitors to a minimum for Christmas but did not face exact limits.

The measures will take effect Sunday. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said “there is reason for concern. We are facing omicron.”

He added that “what we know about it is bad news,” referring to omicron’s high transmissibility.

“It is a tough package,” virologist Marc Van Ranst said.

But much about the omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness.

The Belgian measures came despite a strong and steady decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions. The government said, however, that the lightning fast transmission of omicron made it necessary to take action earlier rather than later.

“It will be dominant soon,” said De Croo. “We have to be more careful that ever.”

Emmanuel Andre, who heads Belgium’s COVID-19 reference lab, said omicron represented 27% of new cases, doubling in as many days.

Since last weekend, Belgium’s northern neighbor, The Netherlands, has closed all nonessential stores, bars and restaurants until Jan. 14 and shut schools and universities until Jan. 9.

Belgium’s major carnival, in Aalst, was canceled even if the festival drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year was slated for late February.

Belgium’s daily new COVID-19 cases have declined 36% over the week ending Sunday, to reach about 8,300 in the nation of 11 million. Hospital admissions have declined 34% to reach 173 a day.

The number of COVID-19 dead has surpassed 28,000.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

North Dakota school board reinstates Pledge of Allegiance

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The school board in North Dakota’s most populous city reversed course Thursday on its decision to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at its monthly meetings, following complaints from the state’s conservative governor and lawmakers along with widespread bashing from citizens around the country.. Seven of the nine members of the […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Louise Billiot, left, a member of the United Houma Nation Indian tribe, walks around the hom...
Associated Press

FEMA declares new strategy to engage Native American tribes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed a new strategy to better engage with hundreds of Native American tribes as they face climate change-related disasters, the agency announced Thursday. FEMA will include the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in discussions about possible future dangers from climate change. It has earmarked $50 million in grants for […]
18 hours ago
FILE - This photo provided on Aug. 14, 2022, by the North Korean government, Kim Yo Jong, sister of...
Associated Press

North Korea dismisses Seoul’s aid-for-disarmament offer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says her country will never accept South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s “foolish” offer of economic benefits in exchange for denuclearization steps, accusing Seoul of recycling past proposals Pyongyang already rejected. In a commentary published on Friday’s edition of North Korea’s […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Suspect in I-85 shootings had 2,000 rounds of ammo

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A man arrested in connection with three interstate shootings in Alabama and Georgia had more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition and an alarming number of firearms in his car, police said Thursday. The Auburn Police Department also said they so far have not found a motive for the “seemingly random shootings.” […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Carl Paladino listens during a media briefing, Oct. 31, 2010, in Old Bethpage, N.Y. Paladino...
Associated Press

GOP candidate says call for Garland’s death was ‘facetious’

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A Republican candidate for Congress in western New York said in a radio interview that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “should be executed” for authorizing a search former President Donald Trump’s home, before clarifying later in the show that he wasn’t being serious. Buffalo-area businessman Carl Paladino made the comment in […]
18 hours ago
FILE - A street sign leads to what was once the home of Paul Adams and his family on the outskirts ...
Associated Press

Judge limits privilege defense in Arizona religious sex abuse case

An Arizona judge overseeing a high-profile lawsuit accusing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of conspiring to cover-up child sex abuse has ruled that the church may not refuse to answer questions or turn over documents under the state’s “clergy-penitent privilege.”
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Belgium to tighten COVID rules to counter rise of omicron