BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgians will be required to wear face masks in outdoor markets and busy shopping areas, as well as accessible parts of public buildings, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said Thursday (July 23).
Ms Wilmes issued the order as she postponed plans to further ease Belgium's anti-coronavirus restrictions next month, as worries increase over new infections and hospitalisations in recent weeks.
In theory, masks were already obligatory inside shops in Belgium, and citizens are supposed to limit their social contacts to a bubble of no more than 15 people per week.
But Ms Wilmes warned that it was important to follow these rules more diligently and added that customers should use masks in bars and restaurants except when sat at tables.
"Announcing a strengthening of the rules is a hard blow for our morale, but we'd prefer to take these measures today than to regret it tomorrow," she said, "These measures are not advice, they are orders," she added.
Belgium has experiencing a dangerous surge in coronavirus cases since it began relaxing many of its lockdown measures.
There were 184 new infections per day on average last week, up by 89 percent over the previous seven days. The number of daily hospitalisations increased from 9.7 to 12.
Some 64,627 cases have been detected in Belgium since the pandemic swept around the world, and 9,808 people have died - three of them recorded on Wednesday.