Local curfews, lockdowns and bans on non-essential travel are all options

Talks between Belgium’s various governments yesterday have resulted in the drawing up of a script that will allow local mayors to take local action to combat new local outbreaks of coronavirus.  The script is expected to be endorsed by the national security council grouping the federal and devolved governments at its meeting on Thursday.

The Flemish Care and Health Agency will have the task of identifying local outbreaks on the basis of the number of coronavirus cases per head of population.  At present warning signals are going off in several municipalities including Antwerp as new cases rise exponentially. Once the agency has confirmed that action is needed local mayors will be able to act in consultation with the federal authorities. The nature of the outbreak will determine what action is taken.

Clusters may be identified in businesses, schools or care homes with their own outbreak plan.  These premises can be isolated and will receive support from the local authorities. This will include updating the local population.

In cases where the outbreak can’t be isolated but where the virus is spreading in the local community the mayor can take quarantine measures. According to the script the measures must be in relation to the outbreak. Local gatherings may be banned and action can be taken to ensure compliance with hygiene measures.  Local areas may be cordoned off preventing people going in and out except for essential travel.  A curfew may be imposed, bars, restaurants and non-essential shops may be closed or their opening hours reduced.  Social bubbles – the 15 people you are currently allowed to meet a week without the need for social distancing – may be cut in size. Mass testing may also be introduced locally.

Following Tuesday’s talks Belgian health minister De Block insisted local lockdowns were the most ‘extreme option’, but the script does include the possibility of quarantining towns or neighbourhoods.

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