Coronavirus measures in Belgium extended until 19 April

Summary

The strict measures in place to control the spread of the coronavirus in Belgium will continue until at least 19 April

‘This is a collective effort’

The federal government’s measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus in Belgium have been officially extended for three weeks, until 19 April. At that time, the government will announce if the measures will need to be extended for another two weeks.

“I want to thank everyone for the enormous efforts you have made to respect the measures we have initiated,” said prime minister Sophie Wilmès at the start of the press conference this evening. “I have said it before: This is a collective effort. Everyone does what they can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We all value our freedom, and I know that we are asking for great sacrifices. But public health is – and remains – our priority.”

The measures are the same as they have been since 18 March. These include:

  • Do not leave the house except for essential activities, which include going to:

                 Doctor, medical facility or pharmacy

                 Supermarket or other food shop

                 Newspaper shop

                 Petrol station

                 Post office

                 Taking care of a family member or friend in need

                 Work, if impossible to work from home (see below)

                 Exercise, which includes walking, cycling and jogging. Residents should stay as close to
                 home as possible to take part in these activities and do them with no more than one other
                 person. Families out together are an exception

  • Do not gather in groups of three or more

  • Schools are closed but must provide child-care to pupils whose parents work in what are considered essential services, such as in the medical sector, police, rubbish collection and fire departments

  • Employers must allow employees to work at home if at all possible. If that is impossible, they must take precautionary hygiene measures in the workplace, including ensuring that people remain at least 1.5 metres apart

  • Restaurants, bars and all non-food shops remain closed

  • Cinemas, concert halls, theatres and all culture centres remain closed

The Easter school holiday ends on 19 April, but whether schools will re-open after that time is not yet known. The Security Council will reconvene in the days before 19 April to assess the situation and decide if measures need to be extended past that date.

Wilmès expressed her concern about ongoing gatherings, including lockdown parties. “It is essential that everyone conforms to the measures and takes them very seriously. We all have to do this. Unfortunately, some people still seem to not comprehend the situation in which we find ourselves. They subvert all our efforts by throwing lockdown parties. These have perilous consequences for other people’s health, and they are illegal.”

She then released a sobering bit of information. “I know that young people feel they are immortal, but there are people who took part in lockdown parties two weeks ago who are in intensive care right now. I’m not just saying that, it’s a fact: It was confirmed this week.”

She also took the time to offer her condolences to people who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus. “I am aware of how incredibly difficult it is for people who have recently lost a family member, a friend or an acquaintance,” said Wilmès. “They have had to say goodbye in awful circumstances. And the grieving process will also be very different than they ever imagined. I offer to them my deepest sympathies.”

To date, 289 people in Belgium have died from Covid-19. There are currently 3,042 people with the virus in the hospital, 690 of them in intensive care.

Photo: Olivier Hoslet/BELGA