Europe: Belgium re-open bars; France ease mask mandate

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Covid restrictions are set to ease in Belgium, France and Luxembourg as infection and hospitalisation fall.

Belgium announced a further easing of pandemic restrictions on Friday to allow nightclubs to re-open and drop the requirement for primary school pupils to wear masks as cases of the Omicron variant fell from an end-of-January peak.

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“The successive waves have not been easy for us,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference, referring to back-to-back Omicron and Delta variant surges.

From next Friday, nightclubs will be allowed to re-open, and bars will be able to extend their hours beyond the current limit of midnight and end curbs on the number of customers per table and concerts will be possible with a standing audience.

Non-essential employees will also no longer require to work from home for at least four days a week, and buyers will be able to go shopping in groups of more than two.

Sports and cultural venues and cinemas, restaurants, and cafes will be affected by the change.

In public transport and indoor areas where it is not mandatory to provide proof of recovery or vaccination, which in France includes the entire retail sector, masks will remain compulsory.

Unvaccinated individuals will be once again permitted at bars and restaurants, hotels, and leisure and sports facilities, as long as they provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

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In addition, the 11 pm curfew for bars and restaurants is abolished while discotheques and clubs are allowed to re-open.

There are no longer contact restrictions for private meetings, and contact persons will no longer have to quarantine. The law, approved by a 31-28 vote, comes into force late on Friday.

The number of new coronavirus infections in Luxembourg has recently fallen. Between January 31 and February 6, the seven-day incidence per 100,000 residents was 1733, according to the health ministry.

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