The Latest: Belgium to reopen bars, restaurants next week

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.


BRUSSELS — Bars and restaurants in Belgium will be allowed to reopen starting Monday after more than two months of closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic as the country enters a new phase in its lockdown exit plan.

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said Wednesday that cinemas and other cultural venues will have to wait until July 1 before opening their doors with the audiences limited to 200 people.

Wilmes said a public health protocol will need to be observed at bars and restaurants. Tables will be spaced at least 1.5 meters apart and seat a maximum of 10 people, and waiters must wear face masks.

She said: “It’s not the finish line, but it’s a big step forward.”

The prime minister added: “But make no mistake, the epidemic has not disappeared. The virus is not gone, and neither are the risks.”

Starting Monday, Belgium residents also will be authorized to meet with 10 different people every week beyond those with whom they share a household.

Wilmes also announced the reopening of Belgium’s borders with other countries from Europe’s 26-nation Schengen Area and from Britain as of June 15.

Belgium has recorded more than 9,500 virus-related deaths but the number of new confirmed cases in the country has nosedived in recent weeks.




— Italy has opened its borders, but many of its neighbors see the move as premature.

— Sweden’s chief epidemiologist acknowledges regrets over handling of pandemic.

— Wuhan has finished a mass testing effort of nearly all its 11 million people, resulting in 300 being put in isolation.

— Pandemic pushes Australia’s economy into 1st recession in 29 years.

— Concerns are mounting about studies in two influential medical journals on drugs used in people with coronavirus.




MADRID — Spain’s national statistics body says nearly 44,000 more people have died since the beginning of 2020 than in the same period a year earlier — an increase of 24% amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The data released Wednesday also revealed a shocking 155% spike in mortality during the week from March 30 to April 5. This year there were 20,575 deaths in Spain that week, compared with 8,081 in 2019.

The region around the Spanish capital has seen the highest increase in estimated fatalities, the National Statistics Institute said.

The institute’s data is higher than the official Health Ministry death toll of the pandemic, which on Wednesday stood at 27,127. That counts only those who died having tested positive for COVID-19. Officials say the disparities are due to people who died without being tested or from other causes. The figure for excess deaths is seen as a more accurate reflection of the toll wreaked by the pandemic.


LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese health officials say continuing increases in confirmed coronavirus cases in the Lisbon region are due to more tests being carried out in areas identified as hotspots.

The Health Ministry on Wednesday announced 366 new cases nationally — the biggest daily increase in almost four weeks.

Officials said 335 of those new cases were in the Lisbon metropolitan area, while the outbreak is waning in the rest of the country.

The Lisbon total was almost double the number detected in the region the previous day.

Secretary of state for health Antonio Sales said the government’s strategy is to encircle the hotspots, which are in low-income neighborhoods around the capital, and run more tests there.

Construction workers and temporary staff working in the service sector are being especially targeted for testing.


SKOPJE, North Macedonia — Authorities in North Macedonia are considering reintroducing movement restrictions in parts of the country after registering the highest number of new COVID-19 infections in a day since the first case in late February.

Health minister Venko Filipce posted on Twitter Wednesday that 101 new cases and four deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours. That brings the total number of infections to 2,492, with 145 deaths.

A national crisis body dealing with the epidemic is meeting urgently to decide whether to impose new restrictions in parts of the capital, Skopje, where more than half the new infections were recorded.

North Macedonia’s government last week ended a curfew and allowed bars and restaurants to reopen.

Filipce said the tiny Balkan country of 2.1 million people is seeing new infections as a result of people ignoring warnings to wear protective masks and gloves, and to adhere to social distancing.


BERLIN — A plan to close one of Berlin’s two airports in mid-June has been dropped because passenger numbers are expected to rise as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Federal and regional governments agreed two weeks ago to allow the closure of Tegel airport starting June 15 – a move that the operator had pushed for since March to save cash after air transport practically collapsed. All flights were to be moved to Berlin’s other airport, Schoenefeld.

Although the closure was supposed to be temporary, Tegel – Cold War-era West Berlin’s main airport – was thought unlikely to reopen its doors because the capital’s much-delayed new airport is finally set to open at the end of October.

On Wednesday, after the German government said it plans to lift a travel warning for much of Europe in mid-June, airport boss Engelbert Luetke Daldrup announced a reprieve for Tegel. He said that both of the existing, aging airports are now needed to “create the necessary space under corona conditions” for operations.

Tegel is still slated to close on Nov. 8 after the new airport opens.


BRUSSELS — Passengers at Brussels airport could be denied access to flights if their body temperature exceeds 38 degrees Celsius as part of measures aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

As it prepares for the return of passengers services, Brussels Airport said in a statement Wednesday that systematic body temperature checks will be performed from June 15 via thermal cameras that will also detect whether passengers are wearing face masks.

The cameras will be installed in the departures hall and will check passengers before they enter the terminal. Arriving travelers will also have their temperature checked, the airport said.

“Brussels Airport is preparing actively for an expected increase in passenger traffic as soon as intra-European borders will open up again,” said Arnaud Feist, the airport CEO. “This control is in addition to all the health measures already taken to allow passengers to travel at ease.”


NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus has accelerated the lifting of most of the country’s remaining coronavirus restrictions by three weeks, citing its consistently low infection rate since the May 4 end of a stay-at-home order.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Wednesday the third phase of the country’s gradual rollback of restrictions will be completed by June 24 instead of July 14.

That means that as of June 9, shopping malls, airports and the interior seating spaces of hotels, bars and restaurants, open-air theaters and cinemas will be back in business. Sports events without spectators, kindergartens, playgrounds, summer schools and school canteens also re-open on that date.

Casinos, dance schools, gyms, theme and water parks open their doors four days later.

A 10-person limit on public gatherings will stay in effect at least until June 24.

Indoor cinemas and theaters are expected to open in early August, while music concerts, festivals, wedding and christening receptions and graduation ceremonies will again be permitted on Sept. 1.

To date, Cyprus counts 952 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 17 deaths.


LONDON — British police statistics show that black and ethnic minority Londoners were more likely than their white counterparts to be fined or arrested for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules barring gatherings and non-essential travel.

Metropolitan Police figures show that black people received 26% of the 973 fines handed out by police between March 27 and May 14 and accounted for 31% of arrests. They make up about 12% of London’s population.

People from Asian, black, mixed and other backgrounds received more than half of fines and arrests, but account for about 40% of the city’s population.

The police force said the reasons for the discrepancy “are likely to be complex and reflect a range of factors.”

Owen West, a former police chief superintendent, said racism was a potential factor. He said “the U.K. police service has massive issues with discrimination … and I really do think now is the time to confront it.”

The statistics are the latest evidence that ethnic minority communities are being hit disproportionately hard during the coronavirus pandemic.

They were published a day after a government-commissioned report confirmed that ethnic minority people in Britain experienced a higher death rate from the coronavirus than white compatriots. The government has vowed to uncover and confront the issues behind the difference.


LONDON — The British government is confirming plans to impose a 14-day quarantine for people arriving in the country starting next week, despite pleas from the travel industry to drop the idea.

Airlines and tour companies say the quarantine will derail plans to rebuild business. It comes as other European countries reopen their borders and ease travel restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Others say the measure comes too late. Britain’s official COVID-19 death toll stands at more than 39,000, the highest in Europe. Officials say the quarantine will help prevent a second wave of infections, though most of Britain’s European neighbors currently have lower infection rates.

Starting Monday, travelers and returning Britons coming from all countries except Ireland, which has a long-standing free-movement agreement with the U.K., will be asked to self-isolate for two weeks.

Breaches can be punished with a 1,000-pound ($1,220) spot fine, or by prosecution and an unlimited fine. But it’s unclear how the quarantine will be enforced. The U.K. government has said only that people “could” be contacted to ensure they are complying.


BERLIN — Germany’s government says it plans to lift a travel warning for European countries on June 15 — but it may still advise against travel in some cases, for example to Britain if quarantine rules there remain in place.

Germany issued a warning against all nonessential foreign travel in March. The aim is to change that for Germany’s 26 European Union partners, other countries outside the EU that are part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel area and Britain.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that the warning would be replaced with more conventional travel advice “so long as there are no longer entry bans and no large-scale confinement” in the countries concerned. He said all countries except Norway and Spain, where entry restrictions are expected to last longer, now fulfill those conditions.

Maas said that the new travel advice won’t amount to “an invitation to travel,” and in some cases may advise against trips – “for instance to Britain, so long as there is still an obligatory 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving there.”


PRAGUE — The Czech Republic and Slovakia are fully opening their common border for travelers, fully lifting restrictions that have been adopted to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister of the two countries, Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic and Igor Matovic of Slovakia, announced the move that becomes effective on Thursday at the start of their meeting in Prague.

The Czechs and Slovaks together with Hungarians have been allowed to travel to their three countries without showing a negative test on the coronavirus or be quarantined if they return home from the trip in 48 hours.

The two countries have not been hit by the pandemic as hard as some other European countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Britain.


GENEVA — The World Economic Forum says its next meeting in January will be held under the headline “The Great Reset,” reflecting the impact that the coronavirus crisis has had on economies and societies around the world and the ongoing need to tackle climate change.

Organizers of the annual meeting of government and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, said Wednesday that they plan to hold a “twin summit” comprising both “in-person and virtual dialogues.” These will link elites to young people in more than 400 cities around the world.

Forum founder Klaus Schwab said that “the global health crisis has laid bare the unsustainability of our old system in terms of social cohesion, the lack of equal opportunities and inclusiveness.”

He warned that “climate change could be the next global disaster with even more dramatic consequences for humankind.”

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