Belgian authorities have announced that a new nationwide lockdown is to go into effect from Monday, November 2, amid an increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country. The lockdown is to last until December 13. Non-essential businesses are to close, mixing between households is to be limited, with each member of a household permitted to meet one person without social distancing, gatherings outdoors are limited to four people, with 15 people permitted for funerals, and working from home is mandatory if possible. In addition, supermarkets are to remove all non-essential products from their shelves. Despite the lockdown, schools are expected to partially reopen on November 16, with a mix of classroom and online teaching. A nationwide curfew between 00:00 and 05:00 (local time) will be in place, while a 22:00 to 06:00 curfew in Brussels and Wallonia is to remain in effect.
Belgium's borders will remain open, although the Belgian government strongly discourages travel. Travel is currently permitted with other EU and Schengen Area countries, as well as the UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Uruguay, although restrictions are in place for areas with high COVID-19 infection rates. For areas designated as 'Red Zones', arrivals are required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival and self-quarantine for seven days and take another test after five days. If the second test returns positive, the self-quarantine period is extended for a further seven days. Travel from all over countries remains prohibited apart from in a few exceptional circumstances. Further information regarding entry requirements and quarantining can be found here.
As of Friday, October 30, health authorities in Belgium have confirmed 392,258 cases of COVID-19, with 11,308 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected in 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). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
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 COVID-19 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.