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The restrictions, which also include stricter social distancing, efforts to avoid crowding on public transport and a maximum of 200 people in theatres, concert halls and cinemas, run until 19 November.

“We are pressing the pause button .... we have a single objective, which is to limit contacts that are not strictly necessary,” Belgium prime minister Alexander de Croo told a news conference. “There’s no law that can stop the virus, the only ones who can stop it are us ... all together,” he said.

The nation of 11 million people had 1,013 new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 residents over the past week, according to official figures, and has lost 10,588 people to the disease, among the world’s highest per capita fatality rates.

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