World, Europe

Belgium shuts down public life over coronavirus

People only allowed to leave their homes for well-justified reason, all non-essential shops, restaurants closed

Agnes Szucs   | 18.03.2020
Belgium shuts down public life over coronavirus

BRUSSELS

Belgium imposed lockdown on public life from Wednesday noon local time (1100GMT) over the new coronavirus outbreak.

The recently formed emergency government led by Sophie Wilmes decided late Tuesday evening to impose drastic measures to stem the further spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

People are only allowed to leave their homes for buying food and medicine, visiting a doctor, helping someone in need or going to work if home office is not an option for them.

All non-essential shops need to be closed, while supermarkets are obliged to limit the number of customers according to the size of the facility. Clients can spend maximum of 30 minutes in a store.

People are also allowed to take a walk or jog in open-air spaces, but they need to keep 1.5-meter distance from others. Only family relatives living in the same household can walk close to each other.

Public transport will continue to serve with a reduced frequency but travels across the country are only allowed if really necessary.

Public gatherings are also banned.

This is the second round of restrictive measures. From Saturday, cafes and restaurants have been only open for takeaway services, and schools and universities have been closed.

The new rules will be in force till April 5. The government will then decide if the lockdown needs to be prolonged.

The police will enforce the new measures.

In total, 1,486 patients have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the country, according to the latest information released by the Federal Public Service of Health.

The number rose by 243 compared to Tuesday, which shows the acceleration of infections. In previous days, the daily rise was around 150.

The authorities are preparing for a surge of diagnosed cases in the second half of the week.

In Belgium, 14 people have so far lost their lives, while 18,360 tests have been carried out.

Worldwide, out of over 203,500 confirmed cases, the death toll now exceeds 8,100, while more than 82,500 patients have recovered, according to Worldometer, a statistics website that compiles new case numbers.

The number of active cases is more than 112,500 -- 94% mild and 6% in critical condition, according to the website.

The World Health Organization has declared Europe the new epicenter of the virus, which first emerged in Wuhan, China last December.

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