March 17, 2020 / 2:16 PM / 12 days ago

UPDATE 1-Brussels Airlines suspends flights for four weeks

(Adds more on airline, Belgian situation)

BRUSSELS, March 17 (Reuters) - Belgium’s Brussels Airlines, a Lufthansa subsidiary, will suspend all flights for four weeks from Saturday as the coronavirus steadily shuts down the country.

The suspension will run until and including April 19, the airline said on Tuesday. Flights will be gradually reduced during the course of this week to allow passengers and crew to return home by the time of the full suspension on Saturday.

The airline said the suspension was the result of measures brought in by Belgian authorities, government advice not to travel abroad and an increasing number of countries not allowing flights to their territories.

Customers will have until June 1 to decide a new travel date, and if desired a different destination.

“We will continuously monitor the situation and communicate accordingly, planning a restart of our operations on April 20 to welcome our guests on board again,” chief executive Dieter Vranckx said.

Belgium reported 185 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,243. Ten people have died.

The government has ordered the closure of schools, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and gyms until April 3.

Non-food shops can open on weekdays, although an increasing number have now closed their doors, including branches of Ikea and sports chain Decathlon.

Shops selling food, which are allowed to open, have been seeking to limit the number of people in their stores at any one time. Supermarket chain Delhaize said it was setting aside the hour from 8 to 9 a.m. for people aged 65 and over and encouraging younger people not to shop then. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, Philip Blenkinsop and Marine Strauss; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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