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Belgium pressed ahead on Friday with plans to allow restaurant and cafe terraces to reopen on 8 May despite warnings from health officials that hospital saturation was starting to resemble that of Italy at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stressed an accelerated pace of vaccinations against the coronavirus, with some 28% of adults having received a first dose.

“If things evolve as they are evolving now, we can continue with our plan to open up outdoors on 8 May,” he told a news conference. “The reopening of our economy, our social life, will follow the vaccinations.”

The government has decided that restaurants or bars will be able to serve outdoors until 10pm, with a maximum of four people per table.

Earlier on Friday, health officials warned of a worsening situation in hospitals.

More than 23,000 people out of in Belgium’s 11 million population have died of Covid-19, with around 3,500 daily infections.

Hospitals had 910 people in intensive care beds. Of the country’s 2,000 intensive care unit beds, 1,000 have been set aside for non-coronavirus cases.

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