Belgian Prime Minister unveils plan to lift lockdown

Updated: Apr 26, 2020, 07:27 IST | Agencies | Brussels

After hours of discussions on Friday, Prime Minister Wilmes announced a timetable to gradually end the country's lockdown, which began on March 12, reports the BBC

A baker prepares bread at La Panaderia in Molenbeek. Pic/AFP
A baker prepares bread at La Panaderia in Molenbeek. Pic/AFP

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes has announced a detailed plan to gradually lift the country's coronavirus restrictions, the media reported on Saturday.

After hours of discussions on Friday, Prime Minister Wilmes announced a timetable to gradually end the country's lockdown, which began on March 12, reports the BBC. The first businesses to open will be fabric shops on May 4 in order to help people comply with new regulations requiring all Belgians aged 12 or over to wear masks on public transport. Other shops will reopen a week later.

Schools will return from May 18, but no more than 10 children will be allowed in each class. Cafes and restaurants will not be permitted to open before June 8. But Wilmes warned that "nothing is set in stone". At least 44,293 people have tested positive for the virus in Belgium as of Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

A total of 6,679 deaths have been recorded in the nation of 11.4 million - the highest rate per capita in Europe. More than half the fatalities have been in care homes. A number of other European countries have already announced measures to ease their lockdowns, the BBC reported. On Friday, the Czech Republic ended restrictions on free movement which had been put in place to help halt the spread of coronavirus.

Sme shops have already reoopened in Germany and schools will gradually reopen from May 4, although bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and music venues will all remain closed. Meanwhile, Poland's Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski called for a two-year delay to the presidential election - due to take place in two weeks' time - saying it was the safest situation given the pandemic.

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