Belgium To Close Cinemas And Play Soccer Games Without Fans To Combat Covid Surge

The Belgian government on Wednesday imposed additional restrictions to combat rising Covid-19 numbers, including shuttering movie cinemas among most indoor activities as well as mandating sporting events including soccer be played behind closed doors.

The new restrictions go into effect beginning Sunday, according to Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo who held a press conference today. The country had some restrictions in place already to combat the Delta variant; now, De Croo said, the omicron variant makes up 30% of new cases, compared with only 10% less than a week ago.

Among the new limitations, cinemas, concert halls and theaters will be closed as of Sunday, mirroring moves in other European countries including Denmark and Ireland as the threat of the latest variant rises. Museums, restaurants and bars will remain open, De Croo told assembled media, as officials didn’t go as far as a full lockdown like in nearby The Netherlands.

Also this week, in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would not be restrictions before Christmas but ones could come afterward as omicron surges there. In Germany, Berlin Film Festival organizers remain optimistic that its planned 2022 in-person edition in February can move forward; it has been placing countries including the U.S. and those in the UK on no-fly lists.

De Croo said today that the plan in Belgium, home to NATO headquarters, is aimed so students could return to school in January after their holiday break. Schools started their breaks early this year given the rise in cases.

Bloomberg reports that about 8.8 million people of 11.5 million Belgians have been fully vaccinated.

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