MADRID – Belgium has temporarily limited non-urgent surgeries and tightened measures in sporting venues as it extends restrictions on top of curfew measures, while in the Czech Republic cases continue to mount despite draconian measures.
Portuguese lawmakers have passed a bill requiring face masks in public for the next three months as regional leaders in Italy called on the government to reimpose a nationwide lockdown amid alarming infection rates.
With the European Union’s highest infection rate per capita, Belgian authorities have decided to further tighten restrictions on social life in addition to nighttime curfew measures introduced earlier this week.
Belgium has a 14-day cumulative COVID-19 incidence rate of 1,013 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, but in hotspots like Brussels and Liege that rate is closer to 1,500.
The public will no longer be able to attend professional sport events, starting with the Belgian Pro League games between Kortrijk and Anderlecht tonight.
New limits will be enforced on classroom capacity and religious services.
Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes is among the over 570 people currently in ICU across the country.
The Czech Republic has the second highest incidence rate in the European Union with 1,066 infections per 100,000 citizens and health authorities on Friday logged another 14,000 cases.
The closure of schools, bars, and leisure centers has done little to slow the spread of COVID-19 so far, officials acknowledged on Friday.
The government has enforced lockdown measures in the country – although officials insist it is not a lockdown – which means people can only leave their house to go to the doctors, buy groceries and pharmaceuticals or take a walk.
The Czech Social Democratic Party, a junior member of the coalition, has called on the health minister, Roman Prymula, to resign after local press reported he was seen in a Prague restaurant even though hospitality outlets were ordered to close on Oct. 14.
Several regions in Italy will toughen measures amid an alarming increase in coronavirus infections after more than 16,000 were reported in the past 24 hours.
Nocturnal curfews are being imposed in several areas, while in Campania, authorities are preparing to order a lockdown, although Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has urged local officials to do everything in their power to avoid further lockdowns.
The country was the first epicenter for the virus in Europe, and went into general lockdown in early March. Those restrictions remained in place until June.
Lombardy, Lazio, Calabria and Campania have already announced curfews from midnight until 5:00 am.
Campania’s regional president, Vincenzo de Luca, has called on Conte to announce a nationwide lockdown, and will soon order one for his region, which is home to Naples.
He announced on Friday that he would order a full lockdown for the region because the measures taken so far, including the curfew, “are insufficient.”
“We must shut everything and we must do it today, not tomorrow. We are one step away from a tragedy,” he insisted, adding that the lockdown would last “one month to 40 days and later we will review, but without drastic solutions we won’t be able to manage.” The latest figures for the region are alarming: in the last 24 hours, some 2,280 new cases have been reported, a record toll.
Portugal’s parliament has approved a law enforcing the use of face masks in public spaces for at least the next three months, as the country struggles to contain rapidly rising infection rates.
Everyone over the age of 10 will have to cover their nose and mouths in public whenever “physical distancing measures recommended by health authorities are not practicable.”
The law stipulates that plastic visors cannot be used instead of masks, and allows for fines of between €100 and €500 for those found to be flouting the rules.
Amid spiraling infection rates, the government on Thursday banned travel between different municipalities between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, a holiday weekend to mark All Saints Day.
Nov. 2 has been declared a national day of mourning for those who have died with coronavirus.
A state of emergency remains in force for most of the country, meaning gatherings of more than five people are banned and commercial hours are reduced.