Police in Belgium's capital have handed out hundreds of fines to residents ignoring lockdown rules in city parks, as restrictions intensify to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officers handed out nearly 300 fines on Sunday in green spaces and around 100 per day for each of the preceding three days, Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van De Keere told news channel LN24.

Penalties ranged from 26 to 500 euros for breaking the rules against standing too close to someone else, picnicking or walking too far from one's home address.

The punishments underline the increased seriousness with which Belgium and other EU countries are implementing "social distancing" rules as health systems buckle under the number of patients needing medical care.

They stand in contrast, however, with other countries such as Britain, where authorities are advising but not compelling residents to stay apart from each other and to strictly minimise movement outside homes.

Belgium started its lockdown on March 18. Residents are largely working from home, with others limited to essential travel only.

While lounging around outside is not permitted, authorities are allowing walks in the fresh air by individuals or with a friend or relative living under the same roof.

"There are some young people who still want to play football, do skateboarding or other group activities. That is not possible," Van De Keere said.

She added that the sort of activity drawing people into green areas over the weekend "is not tenable" and that some of Brussels's parks could end up being shut, like others across the country, if this continues.

Belgium, population 11.4 million, has an official count of 3,743 cases of people infected with the new coronavirus and 88 deaths.

Authorities acknowledge that the true tally of infections is much higher but testing is currently limited to hospitalised patients with severe symptoms and health workers with fever.



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