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Belgium tightens Covid-19 restrictions to avoid another lockdown amid rise in cases

Issued on: 27/07/2020 – 21:49Modified: 27/07/2020 – 21:57

Belgium's prime minister on Monday ..

Issued on: 27/07/2020 – 21:49Modified: 27/07/2020 – 21:57

Belgium's prime minister on Monday put the brakes on the country's coronavirus exit plan, unveiling a set of drastic social distancing measures aimed at avoiding a new general lockdown amid a surge of COVID-19 infections.

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Speaking after an urgent meeting of the national security council, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said that from next Wednesday contacts outside every household will be limited to the same five people over the next four weeks, as the so-called “social bubble” now applies to a house and its occupants and not to individuals. Belgian residents are currently allowed to meet with 15 different people per week. The measures dont apply to children under the age of 12.

“Our aim is clear — avoid another full lockdown,” Wilmes said.

Wilmes said that the new measures — which also include lowering crowd limits at public events to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors — could be sufficient to avoid further restrictions and to ensure children can return to school en masse in September, after the summer break.

Wilmes exhorted people to get back to working remotely when possible, “one of the keys for a successful deconfinement.” She added that shoppers should run errands alone from now on and limit the time they spend in stores to 30 minutes. In addition, family or friends' gatherings —including wedding receptions — will be limited to a maximum of 10 people.

“However, the most important approach is the individual one,” Wilmes said. “If we cannot contain the coronavirus, it will be a collective failure.”

After a sharp decline of infections, Belgium has witnessed a surge in confirmed cases over the past three weeks. According to figures released Monday, the number rose 71% from July 17-23 compared to the previous 7 days, with 47% of the cases detected in Antwerp province.

The number of cases also increased greatly in the rest of the county, with an average of 279 new daily cases and a 30% rise in the number of people admitted to hospital.

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Europe

Europe swelters under a heatwave complicated by Covid-19 restrictions

Issued on: 09/08/2020 – 13:10

Sun-seekers flocked to beaches over the weekend as parts of Western ..

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Sun-seekers flocked to beaches over the weekend as parts of Western Europe sweltered in a heatwave, but authorities urged people to avoid crowded areas and keep wearing masks despite the heat over concern for the rising numbers of coronavirus cases across the continent.

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A day after Britain recorded its hottest August day in 17 years at 36.4° Celsius (97.5° Fahrenheit) much of its southern coastline was packed with visitors, many of whom had been forced to abandon more exciting foreign holidays because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Authorities in Bournemouth, home to a seven-mile golden stretch of beach, warned that most of the beach was so busy that "safe social distancing is not possible" and urged people to stay away.

There was a similar story across other parts of Europe, where many residents endured weeks of lockdown earlier this year.

Crowds of Germans also headed for the coast on Saturday, but local authorities warned residents that some beaches and lakes would be closed if there are too many people.

Police in the capital Berlin told residents to avoid popular lake Mueggelsee while the beach at Prenzlau lake in Brandenburg state was turning people away.

"First time I've experienced that in 30 years," said the manager of the Prenzlau site, Ronny Klein.

France has also been sweltering through a heatwave since Thursday, with temperatures pushing towards 40°C (104°F) in several areas.

In the southwest, Brive-la-Gaillarde broke its own record with temperatures of 40.8°C on Friday as did Cognac with 39.8°C while Nantes posted a new all-time record of 39.6°C.

No relief is expected until Wednesday, with the soaring temperatures compounding the pressure as the country's coronavirus outbreak worsens, the number of daily infections hitting 2,288 on Friday.

Authorities reminded sweltering citizens that masks must continue to be worn where they have been mandated, despite the heat, with a Read More – Source

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Europe

Lukashenko faces challenge in Belarus presidential vote, opposition figures detained

Issued on: 09/08/2020 – 09:55

Belarus began voting in an election on Sunday pitting President Alex..

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Belarus began voting in an election on Sunday pitting President Alexander Lukashenko against a former teacher who emerged from obscurity to lead the biggest challenge in years against the man once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by Washington.

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The 65-year-old Lukashenko is almost certain to win a sixth consecutive term but could face a new wave of protests amid anger over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and his human rights record.

An ongoing crackdown on the opposition could hurt Lukashenko's attempts to mend fences with the West amid fraying ties with traditional ally Russia, which has tried to press Belarus into closer economic and political union.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, Lukashenko has ruled since 1994.

International election observers 'haven't even been invited' for Belarus vote

He faces a surprise rival in Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who entered the race after her husband, an anti-government blogger who intended to run, was jailed.

Her rallies have drawn some of the biggest crowds since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Human rights groups say more than 1,300 people have been detained in a widening crackdown.

Foreign observers have not judged an election to be free and fair in Belarus for a quarter of a century. Despite an election commission ban on the opposition holding an alternative vote count, Tikhanouskaya urged her supporters to monitor polling stations.

"We are in the majority and we don't need blood on the city streets," she said on Saturday. "Let's defend our right to choose together."

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Europe

Belarus opposition candidate’s campaign manager detained before presidential vote

Issued on: 08/08/2020 – 18:09

The campaign manager of Belarus's leading opposition candidate ..

Issued on: 08/08/2020 – 18:09

The campaign manager of Belarus's leading opposition candidate was detained on Saturday on the eve of a tense presidential vote, her office said.

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A spokeswoman for presidential hopeful Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told AFP that Maria Moroz had been detained and was expected to be held until Monday.

It was not immediately clear on what grounds she had been detained, said spokeswoman Anna Krasulina.

"She probably won't be released before Monday," Krasulina said.

Moroz was also detained by the interior ministry on Thursday after visiting the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk. She was later released.

Belarus holds the presidential election on Sunday with Tikhanovskaya posing the greatest challenge in years to long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

The 65-year-old leader has headed the ex-Soviet country bordering Russia since 1994 and Sunday's polls are expected to hand him his sixth term.

Lukashenko has presided over an aggressive crackdown on the opposition and Tikhanovskaya has charged that he will rig the vote.

Europe's longest-serving leader

Early voting began in the country of 9.5 million people on Tuesday, with official turnout over the past four days already at more than 32 percent.

Tikhanovskaya has drawn huge crowds to campaign rallies throughout the country after she was allowed to participate in place of her husband who was jailed and barred from running.

Lukashenko, who is Europe's longest-serving leader, jailed twRead More – Source

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