On Wednesday, April 15, the Belgian government announced an extension to the current nationwide lockdown until Sunday, May 3, due to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Certain businesses, such as hardware stores and garden centers, will be allowed to open from Saturday, April 18; however, all other nonessential businesses will remain closed. Individuals are still only permitted to leave their homes to travel to supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, or to seek emergency assistance. Public gatherings remain prohibited and sporting and cultural events are banned until Monday, August 31. The government has stated that it will review the potential relaxation of lockdown measures in the upcoming weeks with regards to allowing the public to return to work and the reopening of other nonessential businesses.
On Friday, April 3, Belgian authorities announced that entry and exit checks would be reintroduced in order to prevent people from taking part in nonessential travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of the Interior announced that all travelers to Belgium will be expected to produce a Belgium ID card or a letter from their employer to prove that their travel is essential. Individuals attempting to travel for nonessential purposes will be denied entry. Following the travel restrictions, all schools have been suspended and universities have been recommended to offer distance learning. Group activities have been prohibited while nightclubs, bars, and some essential shops have been ordered to close.
As of April 15, 33,573 cases of COVID-19 and 4440 associated fatalities have been confirmed in Belgium. Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be 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 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.