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Belgium to gradually reopen businesses, schools from mid-May

Businesses and schools in Belgium will gradually reopen from the middle of May, easing a lockdown imposed in mid-March to curb the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes announced Friday.

Businesses will restart from May 11 and schools from May 18, Wilmes said, adding the spread of the virus had slowed but pointing out the situation was still evolving. “Nothing is etched in stone,” the premier added.

By Friday, the country of 11.5 million people registered more than 44,000 infections and nearly 6,700 deaths.

“The spread of COVID-19 has been slowed down, but the virus has not disappeared,” Wilmes said following a long emergency government meeting focused on the lockdown.

The different phases of easing the lockdown could still be delayed if experts decide there has been an insufficient decrease in hospitalisations, she said.

Businesses will have to respect social distancing when they reopen, she said.

Restaurants will begin reopening only from June 8 at the earliest. A timetable has not been set for cafes and bars.

As for schools, some classes will be able to go ahead from Monday, May 18.