Belgium Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes announced on Friday, April 24, that the current nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak will be gradually relaxed from Monday, May 4. Beginning from Monday, it will be allowed for people to meet in open spaces with up to two other individuals not living in their households while observing social distancing rules. Certain businesses will be allowed to reopen, including shops selling sewing supplies and fabric, as the mandatory use of masks in public transport will remain in place. In the second phase, all shops will be allowed to resume operations if they keep strict social distancing rules in place from Monday, May 11. Schools will be permitted to reopen in the third phase that starts on Monday, May 18, with a maximum of ten students per classroom. Small gatherings at home will also be permitted, and hairdressers and museums will reopen. Other establishments, such as bars, restaurants, and cafes, will only be allowed to reopen in June. The Prime Minister also stated that it is possible for restrictions to be reinstated if COVID-19 cases were to significantly increase during the easing of lockdown measures.
Under the current lockdown measures, which are due to expire on Sunday, May 3, individuals are only allowed 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.
Entry and exit checks have been reintroduced to prevent people from taking part in nonessential travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 traveling for nonessential purposes will be denied entry.
As of April 24, there are 44,293 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6679 associated fatalities in the country. Further international spread of the virus 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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