On Friday, October 16, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced tighter measures to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The restrictions will take effect on Monday, October 19, and will be in place for a month through to November 16, although some measures will be reviewed after two weeks. Under the enhanced restrictions, a nationwide curfew will be in place between 00:00 and 05:00 (local time). There are certain exemptions from the curfew, including seeking medical attention or for essential work purposes. Restaurants and bars will be closed, although they are able to provide takeout and delivery services. The sale of alcohol will be banned after 20:00. Individuals will only be permitted to have one close contact outside of their household and private gatherings at home will be limited to four people in addition to members of the household. Non-organized outdoor gatherings will remain limited to four people. Funerals are limited to 40 people. Working from home will be mandatory wherever possible. Christmas markets, winter villages, and flea markets will be closed; however, food markets are permitted to remain open. Schools will also remain open, subject to the discretion of the regional governments, with some already extending the autumn half-term break.
Separately on Friday, Belgian and Dutch authorities called on citizens to postpone non-essential travel between the two countries, although the border remains open. Travel is currently permitted with other EU and Schengen Area countries, as well as the UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, 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.
As of Saturday, October 17, health authorities in Belgium have confirmed 191,959 cases of COVID-19, with 10,327 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.
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