Belgium is on the verge of a coronavirus “tsunami”, according to the country’s health minister.
Frank Vandenbroucke warned that the situation in Brussels is the “most dangerous in all of Europe”, with infection rates spiralling out of control.
His comments came ahead of new restrictions that took effect on Monday, including the closure of all bars and restaurants and the introduction of a midnight curfew nationwide.
“We are really very close to a tsunami,” he told broadcaster RTL. “We no longer control what is happening.”
Belgium currently has Europe's second highest infection rate per capita, after the Czech Republic.
The situation comes amid an ongoing row over the effectiveness of a curfew on curbing the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the hospitality industry.
In England, bars, restaurants and pubs are currently required to close at 10pm, due to a rule the hospitality sector argues is causing huge damage while not necessarily limiting the spread of the virus.
Last month Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon cited Belgium as a potential example of a country where a curfew on hospitality had had an impact on infection rates, saying: “We see other countries that have introduced curfews on hospitality, including Belgium, which they think have had an impact.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock is also reported to have taken a similar view.
But despite warning of the situation in Belgium, Vandenbroucke defended the government’s decision to pose a more lax curfew of midnight, compared with 10pm in England and 9pm in France, adding: “We did not want to make life impossible.”
Watch: How will England's three-tier local lockdown system work?
On Friday, the Belgian government announced that all bars and restaurants will be forced to close for four weeks to tackle a surging second wave of the coronavirus, with hospitals close to running out of beds.
It also imposed a curfew from midnight to 5am for a month.
“This virus is affecting our country in a very hard way,” said prime minister Alexander De Croo.
“The coming weeks will be very difficult but we must take those measures to avoid the worse.”
The measures, which also include reducing the number of people Belgians can see at close proximity outside their homes to one, and banning the sale of alcohol after 8pm, are effective from Monday (19 October) and due to last at least four weeks, with a review of their impact after two weeks.
The move follows similar actions across other European countries, including the Netherlands, which closed its bars and restaurants on 13 October, and France, which imposed a night-time curfew.
In Italy, prime minister Giuseppe Conte gave mayors the power to shut public squares from 9pm to halt gatherings as he unveiled a further package of measures on Sunday, while the Slovak government approved plans to use up to 8,000 armed forces personnel to support mass testing of the population.
Switzerland also announced tighter restrictions on Sunday to tackle the recent spike in cases, including a national obligation to wear masks and a ban on large scale public gatherings.
Watch: Can you catch the coronavirus twice?