By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) - Belgium reported 494 new deaths from coronavirus, bringing the tally to 3,019, the Federal Public Service of Health announced on Friday.
Over the past 24 hours, 325 more people lost their lives, marking the highest daily figure since the previous record of 283 cases reported a day before.
During the last two weeks of March, 171 other victims passed away in elderly homes in Flanders, but the authorities could just confirm the cause.
In total, 57% of the victims lost their lives in hospitals, while 40% in elderly centers.
Also, 1,684 new infections were diagnosed, which raises the sum of COVID-19 patients to 26,667 since the outbreak of the virus.
This week’s promising trend of declining hospitalizations also stopped by Friday. The number of people treated in healthcare facilities has risen 20% in a day, bringing the full number up to 5,610.
A €60-billion ($65-billion) economic fallout is expected this year due to the strict limitations on public life imposed three weeks ago to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The measures only allow people to leave their homes only for buying food and medicine, visiting a doctor, helping someone in need or going to work -- unless home office is an option for them.
Only supermarkets and pharmacies can stay open, while snack bars and restaurants are just allowed to offer food for take-away.
People are allowed to take a walk outside with their family members from the same household, but they are required to keep 1.5-meter distance from others.
A Brussels court sentenced on Friday a 23-year old man to community service after he broke the lockdown measures three times. It was the first court decision penalizing the breach of social distancing principles.
If caught by the police, adults need to pay €250 ($274) fine for the first time, and €350 ($383) for the second.
According to the police, the vast majority of citizens respect the rules.
Since the virus emerged last December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it has spread to at least 185 countries and regions.
There are more than 1.61 million confirmed infections worldwide, with the death toll surpassing 96,700, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. More than 361,200 have recovered.