Belgium set to remove almost all COVID restrictions By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk at the Grand Place in Brussels, amid the rise of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases due to the Omicron variant in Belgium, January 21, 2022. REUTERS/ Johanna Geron/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium will remove almost all its coronavirus restrictions from Monday, ending a requirement to wear masks in almost all places and scrapping the need to show a COVID-19 pass for indoor venues from cafes to sports halls.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that the major easing of measures has come almost exactly two years since the pandemic first struck the country, which is home to NATO and EU institutions.

“I think it is an important page that we are turning. It is a symbol principally of our resilience and perseverance faced with a pandemic that gave us little chance to rest,” he told a news conference.

From Monday, Belgians wanting to dine in a restaurant, drink in a bar or visit a museum or cinema will no longer need to show a COVID pass, proving vaccination, recent recovery from infection or a negative test. The move mirrors a change planned in neighbouring France for March 14.

Masks, currently required for most indoor venues, will only be mandatory on public transport and in hospitals and care homes. Capacity limits on indoor venues will also be lifted.

Belgians returning from travel to other EU countries or non-EU countries with the pandemic under control would also no longer be required to fill in special COVID forms.

COVID infections have dropped from a record above 75,000 on Jan. 24 during the peak of the Omicron variant surge to a daily average of about 6,000 in the week to Feb 28, one of the lowest per capita rates in Europe.

Hospital admissions, patients in intensive care and fatalities have also declined sharply and did not hit the peaks of previous waves.

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