Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Belgium extend COVID-19 movement and business restrictions until May 3; some restrictions on store openings relaxed.

This alert affects Belgium

This alert began 16 Apr 2020 10:47 GMT and is scheduled to expire 04 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through May 3
  • Impact: Business closures, movement restrictions, ban on social gatherings

Summary
Authorities have extended current movement and business restrictions until May 3 to help stem the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The measures require the closure of nonessential shops, while grocery markets, pharmacies, banks, and newsstands will remain open, providing they can ensure customers maintain appropriate social distancing. Some additional businesses, including garden centers and hardware stores, will now also be permitted to open with the same stipulations.

Companies are required to implement telecommuting policies where possible or otherwise ensure social distancing in office spaces. Public transport remains operative, though measures are in effect to ensure appropriate spacing among passengers. Authorities are instructing residents to remain in their homes, except to perform tasks such as shopping for essential goods and medications or in emergencies; outdoor fitness activities will be permitted, provided they take place alone or with a member of the same household. Officials have banned most social gatherings for the duration of the measure, and mass public events will be prohibited until at least August 31. Police are enforcing the restrictions and failure to comply may result in fines.

Belgium's land borders with other Schengen Area nations remain open, though nonessential travel to or out of the country is prohibited.

The measures were initially extended March 27 and were scheduled to expire April 19; further extensions are possible in response to developments around COVID-19 in Belgium. Authorities could also impose additional requirements and restrictions based on disease activity throughout the country.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments in recent weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV2-virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
Government of Belgium: www.belgium.be

World Health Organization (WHO): www.who.int