BRUSSELS

Non-essential shops in Belgium reopened Monday after a 50-day lockdown.

People waited several hours to do shopping the first time since the federal government imposed serious restrictions on public life on March 18.

The country’s Health Minister Maggie De Block expressed concerns over the reports on the long queues.

She encouraged people to “listen to their common sense” and go home if they see a crowd in front of the stores.

“It’s not too encouraging for the second phase” of lifting measures, she said, commenting on the pictures of people disrespecting social distancing rules.

Big furniture and sports stores were the most popular destinations at the city outskirts, while people rushed to fast-fashion shops and non-food discount retailers in downtowns.

Customers were willing to spend hours in the several hundred meters long lines.

Customers are obliged to finish their errands in 30 minutes.

Many shops introduced additional precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Some places require their clients to wear facial masks, while others put direction lines on the floor, as well as distancing spots in front of the cashiers.

Some dress shops keep changing cabins closed and offer an unconditional return policy if the item does not fit the customer. In this case, the dress will be quarantined and disinfected.

The next step of phase-out is expected in a week when children can return to schools.

But the government will only allow further easing of measures if coronavirus statistics confirm a steady decline of the outbreak.

The news has been promising so far.

Only 368 new cases were registered and 62 people lost their lives to coronavirus in the past day, according to the latest data of Federal Public Health Service.

In total, 53,449 people have been infected, 8,707 people died and 13,697 recovered in the 11-million country since the outbreak.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has killed around 283,400 people worldwide, with more than 4.13 million infections, while recoveries exceed 1.42 million, according to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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