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17 Mar 2020 | 09:24 PM UTC

Europe: European Union to temporarily close external borders due to COVID-19 March 17

Belgium News Alert

European Union (EU) member states agree to close external borders for 30 days as of March 17 due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19); confirm travel itineraries

TIMEFRAME expected from 3/17/2020, 12:00 AM until 4/16/2020, 11:59 PM (Europe/Brussels). COUNTRY/REGION Belgium


Member states of the European Union (EU) agreed on Tuesday, March 17, to close off the EU's external borders for 30 days, effective immediately, due to concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Per the directive, most non-EU residents will be denied entry into the bloc; however, travel within the EU for citizens and residents will be permitted. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, citizens of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the United Kingdom (UK), and Norway will be exempt from the ban.

As of Tuesday evening (local time), over 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported across Europe, as well as over 2000 associated fatalities. 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.


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