Borders closed: Belgians advised not to travel due to coronavirus outbreak
Viviane Vaz for Id International
Brussels, 20 March 2020
(Update 27 March 2020)
In Belgium, final travel advice is a responsibility from the Foreign Affairs Ministry (FPS Foreign Affairs). At the moment, the Belgian authority says all trips are not recommended. Why? Because most countries around the world are taking measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, such as applying home (or hotel) confinement of at least 14 days. The measures can be updated at any time.
In the Schengen area, Member States approved the plan proposed by the European Commission to close EU external borders for at least 30 days for foreign tourists. Besides, today Belgium has decided to close its internal borders. It means only Belgian nationals and residents, and trucks with products are allowed to enter the country.
So, the risk of being blocked at national and international borders is extremely high and if you are abroad, your return to Belgium may not be guaranteed. As a result, you might have to stay longer than expected at the travel destination and moreover assume all financial and medical consequences by yourself (unless you have a travel insurance covering pandemics/ epidemics).
“If you are abroad, you should first contact local authorities, your tour operator or your airline for assistance. In case of emergency, the Belgian embassy in the country where you are can also be contacted,” FPS Foreign Affairs advises.
If you are in Belgium, these are the measures announced to go into force at least until 19 April, 12AM:
Everyone must stay at home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible; people should keep social distance of 1 meter from each other;
Public transport operates normally, but you should limit to use it to essential journeys;
Working from home is the new norm. If it’s not possible, people can only go to work if the employer can guarantee all safety regulations;
You can also leave your home in order to buy food, to go to the bank, post office, the doctor, the pharmacy, news kiosks, gas stations. All businesses must comply with social distancing, though;
Since March 25, hairdressers should also close their businesses and respect the quarantine;
Non-essential stores are closed;
Open air physical activity is allowed by yourself or with only one family member. People without family can go with a friend, keeping at least 1 meter distance from each other;
Night shops can remain open until 10 PM, but must also comply with social distancing;
Schools are closed, but creches remain open;
Home delivery and drive-in are allowed;
Hotels may remain open, but not the bar or restaurant. Breakfast should be served in the room or guests can request delivery service;
All events and entertainment activities (public or private) are cancelled, regardless of their size;
Cafés, discos and restaurants are closed;
Those who do not respect these rules may receive a fine from 26 to 500 euros, besides getting from 8 days to 3 months of jail.
Tourist information offices in Belgium
As a result of the measures to tackle coronavirus, tourist information offices are closed. If you need emergency information, you can call from 10 AM to 6 PM: 02 513 89 40.
If you need emergency travel services, the travel & event agency Id International remains open at the number: +32 2 888 24 44.
And what if I feel sick in Belgium?
If you have fever and/or respiratory problems, such as coughing and breathing difficulties, the Belgian Health Ministry (FPS Health) recommends:
Stay at home;
Do not go to the hospital emergency department or the doctor waiting room. First, call your doctor and report your symptoms. He/she will determine by telephone whether you can stay ill at home or if you should go to the hospital;
At the moment only serious cases and care personnel are being tested.
If you still need health information in Belgium, please call: 0800 14 689