Jan 23, 2022 17:46 UTC
  •  Thousands of protesters clash with police in Belgian capital in protest against COVID restrictions

Thousands marched in Brussels on Sunday to protest the Belgian federal government's COVID restrictions.

Prime Minister Alexandre De Croo announced Friday, January 21, that people will need booster shots after five months to maintain COVID-19 passes giving access to bars or cinemas.

That five-month limit is among the tightest in Europe. For neighboring France, it is seven months, while the EU-wide guide for travel within the bloc is set at nine.

De Croo said that from March 1, the initial vaccination series would be valid only for five months with boosters required to keep COVID passes active, although they would still be valid with a test or recent recovery from infection.

Protester Anneleen De Klerck, who works as an aide for elderly people, said the pass gives them a false sense of security and endangers them.

"I work with elderly people and they say 'oh I'm gonna go to that event because it's safe because there's a COVID safe ticket'. And then they are sick, the next week they are sick, from COVID," she said.

Caroline Van Landuyt said she was angry at the government, accusing authorities of blackmailing the youth with the vaccine.

"I was very angry that my children had to do the vaccine... They want to travel, they want to do sports competitions, and they can't do it without a vaccine but they did not want to, it's just blackmail," she added.

Belgium's measures announced Friday introduced a slight easing of coronavirus restrictions despite record infections.

De Croo said they were justified considering the high vaccination rate in the country, with 89% of adults fully vaccinated and 67% having taken a booster shot.

COVID-19 infections in Belgium are at their peak now at 40,929 new infections reported each day.

There have been 2,697,239 infections and 28,780 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.