March 17, 2020 / 7:39 PM / 13 days ago

Belgium to impose coronavirus lockdown from Wednesday

A closed playground is seen in a residential area to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, in Brussels, Belgium March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium will impose a lockdown from midday (1100 GMT) on Wednesday until April 5 to restrict the movement of people in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Belgians’ travel will be limited to visits to supermarkets, pharmacies and banks or for cases of emergency, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference on Tuesday.

“The situation has evolved and forced us to take severe measures to stem the spread of the virus,” Wilmes said.

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

Gatherings of people will be forbidden but physical activity, such as walking or cycling, will be allowed outside, provided a distance of 1.5 meters between people is respected.

People will still be able to go to the supermarket, a doctor, a pharmacy, the bank or the post office, to fill up one’s car or to help people in need. Supermarkets will have to limit the number of people in stores at any one time.

All companies will have to have employees work remotely as far as possible. Where that is not possible, companies will have to keep their staff at a distance from each other.

Wilmes’ administration already closed schools, cafes, restaurants, gyms, cinemas and other places where people gather from last Saturday. Many businesses have since also closed, particularly non-food shops. Brussels Airlines will suspend flights from next Saturday.

Police will ensure the new lockdown is enforced. Companies that do not comply will face heavy fines.

Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Leslie Adler

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