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Belgium's lockdown to last at least eight more weeks - health minister

FILE PHOTO: Belgium's Health Minister Maggie De Block holds a news conference after a cabinet meeting to discuss measures related to the coronavirus outbreak in Brussels, Belgium March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The lockdown of Belgium due to the coronavirus epidemic will continue for at least the next eight weeks, health minister Maggie De Block told the De Zondag paper on Sunday.

From March 17, Belgians are only allowed to leave home to buy food, for health-related errands or to assist someone in need. Schools and universities are closed and employees of most companies have to work from home.

Non-essential travel abroad is prohibited until April 5, all gatherings are banned and police are patrolling the streets to monitor and enforce the restrictions.

Asked how long this would last, De Block said:

“That’s the million dollar question! We are now heading towards the peak of the epidemic, after which the curve will descend. I think this situation will last for at least another eight weeks. It would be the normal curve.”

She said the estimate was based on what happened in China and South Korea, where the epidemic hit earlier.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Catherine Evans