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Coronavirus: Brussels orders bars and cafés to close for a month amid COVID-19 surge

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Panda bear cuddly toys rest in an empty terrace of a restaurant in downtown Brussels, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.
Panda bear cuddly toys rest in an empty terrace of a restaurant in downtown Brussels, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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Bars and cafés in Brussels were on Wednesday ordered to shut for a month due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The regional government said in a statement that the wider Brussels area currently has a 14-day incidence rate of 502.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants — more than double the national rate of 232.8 cases per 100,000 population.

Young people continue to account for the majority of infections but an increase of cases among older people has also been observed.

This has led to an increase of hospital admissions with 15 per cent of intensive care beds now occupied, rising to 25 per cent in two hospitals, the statement added.

"This again puts great strain on healthcare workers and jeopardises care for other patients," it said.

Any places selling drinks have been ordered to shut, even those who do not sell alcohol. Sports clubs, whether professional or amateur, must also close their refreshment stall and the public is now banned from watching amateur sport indoors.

Brussels' latest restrictions come a day after the federal government tightened measures nationwide, ordering bars and cafés to close no later than 11 pm and banning gatherings at home or outside of more than 4 people.

More than 10,000 people are known to have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in Belgium, and a further 134,197 have been infected.

The small country of 11 million inhabitants has the sixth-highest case-fatality ratio in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.