The Belgian government announced on Saturday, August 1, that trips to the Spanish regions of Navarra, Aragon, Barcelona, and Lleida in Catalonia, the areas of Vaud, Valais, and Geneva in the Lake Geneva region in Switzerland, and the French department of Mayenne will be banned until further notice amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The Belgian government has also included the Bulgarian regions of Severoiztochen and Yugozapaden, several areas of Romania (central, south-eastern, south-Muntenia and south-western Oltenia), as well as the city of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Quarantine and screening are mandatory for travellers from these areas returning to Belgium. These areas are among the high risk "red zones", part of a traffic light system of high, medium and low risk regions in the EU, UK and four non-EU Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway). Travellers entering Belgium from high risk (red) places within these regions will be required to take a COVID-19 test and to self-isolate for 14 days. International arrivals from outside the aforementioned regions remain subject to entry checks. UK and EU nationals will be able to enter Belgium from outside the EU, the four other Schengen countries and the UK but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Also from August 1, anyone returning to Belgium from abroad or wishing to stay in the country for more than 48 hours must fill in an identification form, giving their detailings and where they have stayed over the last 14 days.
Various COVID-19 measures are in place in Belgium, including a reduction in social contact, whereby families will now only be permitted to see five other people, down from 15 previously, which authorities hope will prevent another nationwide lockdown. Public events will be limited to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. Individuals will be required to shop alone and have been advised to work from home where possible. As of July 27, a 23:30 to 06:00 (local time) nighttime curfew is in place in Antwerp amid new measures to try and curb the spread of COVID-19. Bars and clubs will reportedly close at 23:00. Furthermore, everyone aged over 12 in Antwerp must wear a mask in public.
As of Wednesday, August 5, there have been 70,648 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Belgium, and 9852 associated fatalities. 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.
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