Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Belgium tightens COVID-19-related restrictions on gatherings from July 29; other restrictions remain in place lifted.

  • Alert Begins: 27 Jul 2020 07:30 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 11 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: International transport disruptions

Authorities in Belgium will tighten the country's coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related restrictions on gatherings from July 29. Public gatherings limits will be halved; indoor venues will have a limit of 100, and outdoor venues will have a limit of 200. In addition, private social gatherings from different households are now limited to five people; the limit was previously set to 15 people. This measure comes following an increase in COVID-19 infections in the country.

Authorities previously removed entry restrictions on travelers from most EU and Schengen Area countries and the UK, though arrivals from high COVID-19 activity zones within Portugal, Spain, and the UK - as designated by the Department of Foreign Affairs - currently require a COVID-19 test and 14-days of self-isolation. Nonessential travel from other countries remains prohibited, and any arrivals will also require testing and 14 days of self-isolation; exceptions are in effect for persons engaged in certain types of essential travel, such as diplomats, health workers, and cargo transport staff.

Most nonessential businesses in Belgium have reopened, provided they comply with strict hygiene and social-distancing requirements. Protective masks are mandatory in crowded public spaces, including on public transport.

All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice in response to government reviews and may receive updates or extensions in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
As countries relax blanket restrictions across Europe, authorities could begin to reintroduce sporadic, targeted measures in response to local COVID-19 outbreaks. Such measures could apply to local government areas, neighborhoods, or even specific facilities, including schools, factories, or accommodation and office blocks. Mandatory social distancing procedures in public places and on public transport, as well as widespread voluntary "self-policing" by residents, will assist in reducing the potential for contagion, likely negating the necessity for a large-scale, blanket reintroduction of significant restrictions.

The easing of restrictive measures undertaken by Belgium is similar to actions taken by other governments throughout Europe in response to a decrease in COVID-19 infection rates. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 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.

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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