BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium will further ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions on July 1, allowing swimming pools, theme parks and party venues to reopen, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said on Wednesday, although social distancing measures will remain.
Belgians will be allowed to go to the cinema or theatre again while respecting social distancing rules, and up to 200 people will be allowed to attend indoor events such as religious services, she said.
Up to 400 people will be allowed to attend gatherings outside, including demonstrations, but are not supposed to move around while doing so.
Belgians will be able to meet as many as 15 friends a week - an increase from 10 currently. Social distancing and hygiene measures must be clearly respected. Wearing a mask in public is recommended and may become mandatory if necessary.
“We are still not safe from a rebound of the epidemic,” Wilmes told a news conference after a meeting of the country’s national security council.
“This summer will have a peculiar taste,” she added.
Large gatherings such as music festivals remain banned and nightclubs will stay closed until at least the end of August.
On July 21, Belgium’s national day, the traditional military parade and firework displays will be adapted and there will be no garden party in the royal park.
Wilmes said the July 21 public holiday would be a time to honour healthcare workers and COVID-19 victims.
Belgium, where the European Union and NATO have their headquarters, imposed a lockdown on March 18 due to COVID-19, which has so far claimed 9,722 lives, one of the world’s highest fatality figures per capita.
Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Gareth Jones