Disgruntled fair workers protest renewed Belgium coronavirus restrictions

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Workers hauling more than 400 truckloads of fairground rides and equipment halted traffic for hours in Brussels on Friday, honking to protest a ban on a huge summer fair that has been barred from opening amid a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Belgium, with one of the world’s highest death rates per capita from the novel coronavirus, brought back curbs this week to avert another sweeping lockdown.

That included calling off the Midi Fair, an annual event held since the late 19th century that had been due to launch this weekend. Organisers had expected 1.5 million visitors.

“We don’t have any income and I hope, after today, to be able to make some money again. Because, as things are going now, it’s not OK and I’m really scared I won’t have enough money to feed our children,” said slot machine owner Pamela Lainez.

Sebastien Dotremont, owner of a fair ride, said: “We just want to make our voices heard, we want people to know we are here because we are a forgotten sector, we’re being put aside, so this is why we’re protesting today.”

On Friday, Belgian health authorities said there were 62% more new COVID-19 cases confirmed this week compared to the last, with a daily average of 371. The figures are still a fraction of the numbers recorded before a lockdown in the spring, but the rate of increase has raised the alarm.

“A nice day shopping with friends or family is not appropriate,” a spokesman for the health ministry told a news conference, calling on Belgians to observe hygiene measures and respect social distancing rules as summer sales kick in.

Reporting by Christian Leavaux and Marine Strauss, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska