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17 Mar 2020 | 09:44 PM UTC

Belgium: Government orders nationwide lockdown from March 18 to April 5 /update 5

Belgian government imposes nationwide lockdown from March 18 to April 5 to prevent further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19); significant transportation and business disruptions expected



Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes announced on Tuesday, March 17, that a nationwide lockdown will come into effect at 12:00 (local time) on Wednesday, March 18, to prevent further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country. The lockdown will remain in place until April 5 and will restrict the movement of people. Individuals will only be allowed to travel to supermarkets, pharmacies, and bank, or for cases of emergency. Gatherings of people are prohibited but individuals will still be able to go outside for physical activity, including walking or cycling, as long as social distancing of 1.5 m is practiced. Companies are being asked to allow employees to work remotely and if that is not possible, to have staff maintain distance from each other. Police officers will be deployed to enforce the lockdown and companies that do not comply will face heavy fines.

Schools, cafes, restaurants, gyms, and cinemas have been closed since Friday, March 13. Brussels Airlines (a Lufthansa subsidiary) has also announced that it will suspend all flights from Saturday, March 21, through Sunday, April 19.

As of March 17, 1243 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.


The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.


Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:  

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.

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