Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Belgium to commence phase one of a multi-phase COVID-19 exit strategy starting May 4. Travel and business disruptions remain.

This alert affects Belgium

This alert began 01 May 2020 18:09 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Easing of restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Easing of restrictions; business and transport disruptions

Summary
Authorities in Belgium on April 30 announced that from May 4 they will commence phase one of a multi-step COVID-19 exit strategy. From May 4 companies will be allowed to reopen with teleworking still recommended where possible and social distancing ensured in workplaces. Public transport will resume normal operations; the use of face masks on public transport will be mandatory. Walking, cycling and other physical activities will be now allowed for up to two people from different households; contactless sports such as kayaking and tennis will also be allowed. It remains currently unclear when the second phase might start, and what measures would be eased during it.

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. Travelers arriving in Belgium from abroad are mandated to self-isolate at home for 14 days after arrival.

Implementation of future recovery stages is contingent upon no major increase in disease activity over the coming weeks. All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice

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.


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