BRUSSELS, Jan 21 - Belgium announced a slight decrease in coronavirus limitations on Friday despite record infections and also determined that people will need booster injections after five months to maintain COVID-19 permits.
From next Friday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo extended his opening for bars and restaurants to midnight. Guests would have plenty of fun inside play areas and bowling alleys.
"The reason we can accomplish this is because we have a so high vaccination rate," De Croo told a news conference, adding that vaccinated people were half as likely to catch COVID-19 and 90% less likely to have to go to hospital if they did.
In Belgium, roughly 89 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, and 67 percent are now receiving a booster injection.
De Croo said that the initial vaccination series would be valid only for five months, with boosters required to keep COVID passes active, although they would be valid with a test or a recent recovery from infection.
For France, this five-month limit is one of the most strict in Europe, with seven months remaining, while the EU's guide for travel within the bloc is set at nine.
The highest level of COVID infections has been reported for at least a couple of weeks in Belgium. Monday brought a record of more than 60,000 cases, with similar levels forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hospital admissions are rising at a much slower rate, and the number of patients in intensive care is declining.
"We are still optimistic about the hospitals, but the situation is managingable," said virologist Steven Van Gucht of Sciensano, which hosted a press conference.