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Belgium tightens coronavirus restrictions just days after relaxing rules on masks

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Bars in Belgium will be forced to close at 11pm from Friday
Bars in Belgium will be forced to close at 11pm from Friday   -   Copyright  Francisco Seco/AP
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Belgium has announced tighter coronavirus restrictions to come into effect this week after a surge in new cases — particularly among the elderly.

From Friday, Belgians will be limited to having three close contacts outside their household, while bars will be forced to close at 11pm.

Tables will be restricted to four people only, and the usual social distancing requirements will apply.

Announcing the latest measures, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who took his role just days ago, warned the situation had become "preoccupying and serious".

He said: "We see that almost everywhere in our country the number of cases is rising, we see the number of hospitalisations growing, as well as the number of deceased in hospitals.

"We must do everything we can to prevent the propagation [of the virus], which is rising at full speed now."

Just last week, Belgium was seen to loosen its restrictions by only requiring face masks in crowded spaces — a step down from asking people to wear them outdoors at all times.

The quarantine period for people who potentially have the virus was also reduced from 14 days to one week.

But on Monday, the government revealed the daily number of cases had risen sharply by 32% to around 2,100.

The majority of these cases are being recorded among people aged between 20 and 29; however, there has also been a tenfold increase of infections among people over 90, which has authorities worried.

It led to De Croo stressing on Tuesday the importance of following the new rules, or else face something even stricter.

More than 130,200 people have so far contracted the virus in Belgium, which is home to 11.5 million people and is one of the worst-affected countries in Europe by the pandemic.

As of Monday, 10,064 people are said to have died with the illness.