Coronavirus: Antwerp urges visitors to stay away after new spike in cases

Lockdown restrictions were eased too quickly and now “severe measures” may be required to quell a second wave, according to the governor of Belgium’s worst-affected province.

Cathy Berx, who oversees Antwerp province, told Sky News that she could “understand the fear” of a return to a full lockdown, but said that the virus was now spreading so fast that she is asking people to stay away from Antwerp.

The latest figures produced by the Belgian government show the average number of daily infections increasing by 77% compared to the previous week.

Nearly 10,000 people have died of the disease, giving it one of the highest per-capital mortality rates in the world.

Mrs Berx has been the provincial governor since 2008, acting as the representative for the federal government. She told Sky News that she would “at least understand” if the UK decided to introduce quarantine restrictions on visitors from Belgium “even though it would not be nice”.

Antwerp has seen a rapid increase in cases over recent weeks, driving talk of a second wave across Belgium.

Around half of the recent cases of coronavirus recorded across the whole country have stemmed from this single province.

Antwerp has now introduced a night-time curfew as well as tight restrictions on social bubbles. In addition, Mrs Berx has asked residents to stay at home, and also work from home as much as possible,

When I asked whether she agreed that the lockdown had been eased too soon, she replied: “I fully agree – especially in Antwerp. They worked with parameters like the reproduction R rate.

“They made the calculation on that rate for the entire country but they didn’t apply it for every region. If they had applied it to Antwerp as a region they would have seen it was still very high.

“Over 147 days, there was not one single day without new infections in Antwerp. That’s the issue – there was still so much virus around in Antwerp – and when you have a small outbreak, it can spread very, very fast.”

She was also critical of other elements of the province’s response to the “first wave” of the pandemic, saying that “people were uncertain about how to behave” after restrictions were lifted, and that too little effort had been placed into checking that people were observing mandatory self-isolation or quarantine.

“The legislation exists but it was not really carried out,” she said.

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