Belgium and France have tightened restrictions in an effort to curb a surge of Covid-19 cases, as a third wave of the pandemic takes hold across Europe.
In Belgium, the government announced on Wednesday that schools, non-essential shops and hairdressers will be closed for four weeks from Saturday. In the last week confirmed cases have risen by 40 per cent and hospitalisations by 28 per cent.
“We are facing a third wave,” said Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Prime Minister, adding that B117, the variant first found in Kent, is likely taking a heavy toll.
“We have decided on a short term pain. It’s a heavy decision to take, but if we didn’t the consequences would be more serious.”
Meanwhile in France, a government spokesman warned that the coronavirus situation is worsening in every region of the country and urged people to work from home to curb the virus.
The government also looks set to widen localised Covid-19 restrictions currently in place in Paris to three other high-risk zones, including the Rhone region which houses the major city of Lyon.
And in Poland, where a record 29,978 cases were detected on Wednesday, local media has reported that the government will tighten measures imposed last week ahead of Easter – which is usually marked by packed church services and family gatherings in the deeply Catholic country.
The measures come after the European Commission unveiled new guidelines on exporting coronavirus vaccines to countries outside the block, in an effort to kick-start the continent’s stuttering vaccination campaign.
Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission President, told a press conference that while “member states are facing a third wave” and “not every company is delivering on contract”, it is right for EU states to consider “reciprocity and proportionality” when exporting jabs.