All gatherings are banned, non-essential travel is prohibited and remote work the new normal as Belgium shuts down public life to slow down the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: People's Daily)
Brussels (People’s Daily) – Belgium entered a near-complete shutdown Wednesday to stop the further spread of COVID-19. It will extend through April 5.
People must stay at home as much as possible and avoid contact with others. Residents in Belgium can only leave their homes for essential reasons, such as grocery shopping, health-related errands or assisting someone in need.
All non-essential stores will be closed while food stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, newsagents and banks will remain open.
Access to supermarkets is limited to one person per 10 square meters and a duration of 30 minutes per customer.
Any gatherings and meetings are prohibited, with police deployed on the streets to monitor and enforce the new regulations.
Outdoor sports activities, such as walking, jogging or cycling are allowed, but if there are two persons involved, the accompanying person must be someone who lives under the same roof. Care should be taken to maintain a 1.5m space from other people.
Citizens will still be allowed to go to work in cases where working remotely is not possible but working from home “must become the norm” and businesses are called upon to organize telework for all professions where possible.
Companies may be fined heavily in the event of non-compliance, or even be closed for a repeat offence.
With implementing these measures, Belgium becomes the latest country in the EU to force public life to shut down to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Although the Belgian federal government has not officially called the new, stricter measures a lockdown, public life will be severely curtailed.
Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said the new rules were “indispensable” to preserve public health, given the “seriousness of the situation.”
243 new people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (COVID-19), confirmed the FPS Public Health during a press conference on Wednesday. The total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, is 1,486. 4 additional deaths have also been reported, bringing the total number of people who have died from the coronavirus in Belgium to 14.
“Once again, this is an underestimation,” said government virologist professor Steven Van Gucht.
“Respect the rules – you are part of a system,” the prime minister said and added: “It is essential that social distancing does not stand for social disconnection. It is difficult, but thanks to technology, it is possible. Take good care of yourself and make sure your loved ones feel good.”