The hotspot in Alken is thought to have been caused because of two parties that were allowed to gather over the weekend of 7 March. On the daily press conference of 27 March Van Gucht announced that a cat had been infected by its owner. This was only the third time the infection of a companion animal by its human companion had been reported worldwide. The cat had developed respiratory and digestive problems.
The additional number of people reported as having tested positive for the novel coronavirus peaked on 28 March compared to the previous days.
The peak occurred because more persons were being tested and because a major Walloon laboratory that had not reported any cases up to that point then belatedly reported additional cases from a past period. As of 29 March, around 20, Belgian citizens were stuck abroad due to travel restrictions worldwide, many in Peru , South Africa , Australia and New Zealand. On 30 March, it was announced that because of the high burden on some hospitals in the provinces of Limburg and Hainaut, a dispersal plan for ICU patients had been activated.
Jan Eyckmans of the Federal Public Service Health claimed hospitals increased their number of ICUs from to over a period of two weeks time, corresponding to an increase from At the end of March, it became clear that the peak of the only wave thus far of the pandemic within the country was expected in early April. On 1 June Belgium's Prince Joachim issued a public apology following news that he tested positive for COVID after he attended a party in Spain, in violation of the country's lockdown.
Starting 4 May , Belgium began gradually to ease the lockdown measures, which were the measures taken from March 18 to combat the spread of the coronavirus. For example, as of 11 May, all shops are allowed to be open for the public but under certain conditions e. Cafes and restaurants were allowed to be open as of 8 June.
In June, 10, people demonstrated in Brussels, in the Black Lives Matter demonstration, with corona measures still in place. It was strongly disapproved by Minister President of Flanders Jan Jambon who called it detrimental to the spread of the virus. On 25 July new regulations made it compulsory to wear face coverings in most indoor spaces and busy outdoor spaces.
Visitors to a pub have to wear face coverings at least until they have found a seat. Those breaking the rules could be fined up to Euros.
On 27 July, the government published new social distancing rules to come into effect in Belgium from 29 July, whereby the number of closer contacts of separate households was restricted to a group of maximum 5 people the so-called "bubble of five". With people who are not part of your bubble, safety distance had to be respected. People could only go to a restaurant within their family and within the bubble. On 28 July, in response to a flare-up in Antwerp, measures are being tightened locally.
Individuals are required to stay in their homes from It lasted 1 month. As of end July and during August and September the number of new corona infections per day began to rise again in Belgium. Belgium had then passed the milestone of , confirmed coronavirus infections. The number of testing was now much increased. In September an average of more than 30, tests were carried out daily compared to ca.
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The increased number of tests could partially but not fully explain the increasing number of infections. Nevertheless, the number of hospitalised coronavirus patients had continued to remain at a low level. On 18 September, a total of patients were receiving hospital care due to COVID, compared to almost 7, at the peak of the epidemic.
Other experts reacted in the media and questioned whether the situation had to be seen as alarming. On 24 September, new coronavirus restrictions have been announced by the government. The restrictions were eased on some points. The rule of the bubble of 5 was changed: each person in a household could have closer contact with up to 5 persons, with different persons each month.
Beginning of October the average number of daily new infections had risen to The situation in Belgium was no exception compared to other countries in the EU. On 30 October, new figures showed that Belgium had the highest infection rate in Europe. As a result, the new Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo announced that a national lockdown would be reintroduced from 2 November onwards.
Non-essential shops were to close, households were only allowed one visitor at a time, and school holidays were extended to 15 November. De Croo said that the restrictions would remain in place until at least mid-December. Working at home - if possible - was encouraged to control the breakout. The employees affected included some with important tasks in the nuclear power plant.
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Engie Electrabel assured that the safety of the nuclear power plant would not be compromised. During the first wave in the spring, far fewer infections were detected. On 29 January, Belgium issued a travel notice advising against non-essential flights to China, Hong Kong excluded, with some travel companies cancelling all flights to China.
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On 1 March, as a second case of coronavirus was confirmed in Belgium, phase 2 of the health risk containment strategy was activated. On 10 March, the government advised citizens to cancel any indoor scheduled events to be attended by more than 1, people for the month of March. Companies were advised to have their personnel work from home as much as possible and allow flexible working times to allow a better spread of public transport use throughout the day. The authorities called this reinforced phase 2. Late in the evening on 12 March, after a meeting of the National Security Council , the Belgian government moved into the federal phase of crisis management, and ordered the closure of schools, discos, cafes and restaurants, and the cancellation of all public gatherings for sporting, cultural or festive purposes from Friday 13 March at midnight onwards.
Stricter social distancing measures were imposed from noon the following day until 5 April, with non-essential travel prohibited, non-essential shops to close, gatherings banned, with penalties for corporate and individual persons who failed to comply with the restrictions. On 27 March, the National Security Council and the governments decided to extend the measures until 19 April end of the Easter vacation. On 6 March, Federal Minister of Public Health Maggie De Block criticised EU governments for blocking the export of medical masks at a time when global stocks were decreasing, asserting that they were acting against the spirit of the European Union.
While the number of tests capped at 3, and 4, a day, an increase in stocks of the required materials [ further explanation needed ] was announced early April by the Federal Minister Philippe De Backer, to improve the testing capacity to 10, tests a day. At the outset, the Belgian authorities, mostly through their federal Minister of health Maggie De Block , had focused on reassuring by asserting that there was no reason to panic,  that Belgium has good hospitals and laboratories  and that the government was attentive to the evolution and well prepared for the possible arrival of coronavirus.
An official website  of the Federal Public Service Health dedicated to the coronavirus crisis was registered by the authorities before the first case was officially confirmed, at the end of January,  to inform the public. Every day, the latest developments on the epidemiological situation in Belgium are reported, with the new figures of confirmed cases, hospitalised patients and deaths, as well as general explanations and forecasts, or reminders of the need to respect the social distancing measures.
In an apparent effort at transparency, a daily epidemiological bulletin and a set of raw data are made available on the Belgian Institute for Health website.
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Experts and authorities also used the media to express themselves throughout the crisis, either to reproach citizens organising or taking part in so-called 'lockdown or corona parties ',  or otherwise to give their point of view. On 20 March, the chairman of the Scientific Committee expressed the hope that the measures that came into effect on 14 March would lead to a stabilisation of the number of hospitalisations starting from the middle of the week beginning 23 March.
Erika Vlieghe of the Scientific Committee mentioned that she expected the peak of the pandemic to occur in early April.
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When the first measures were taken by the Belgian government on 10 March, in the form of recommendations, some expressed that more drastic measures were required, like Professors Herman Goossens and Marc Van Ranst who questioned the set limit of maximum 1, people for indoor events. Some media made positive criticism, such as the Financial Times who praised Belgium for its handling of the coronavirus crisis,  claiming Belgium had shown that "a fragmented country" could still produce a clear response to the pandemic — by taking decisive actions earlier than other countries — and pointing out the daily briefings are not held by politicians but by scientific experts and spokespersons.
Just as many countries in the world,  Belgium faced a shortage of personal protective equipment PPE such as respirators , surgical masks or face shields. Towards the end of January, Belgian newspapers highlighted the shortage of respirators and surgical masks and a retailer questioned whether Belgian would have enough masks if there were to be an outbreak of the virus, but the Federal Public Service Health claimed the Belgian hospitals had sufficient stock.
Upon reaching their expiration date in , minister of health Maggie De Block decided to destroy and not replace 6 million face masks. In Belgium, the organisation of care homes falls under the regional authorities. On 11 March the care homes were closed for all visitors in Wallonia and Brussels, and a day later in Flanders. After the closure, the sector requested more protective equipment, more training and guidelines for caretakers on how to handle infected patients, and more tests.
However, not much was changed and the care homes kept operating with a lack of tests and a lack of protective equipment while being required to keep many infected residents in the homes. Care organisations accused the minister of losing 3 weeks time, and being very late with an emergency plan.
Steven Van Gucht from Sciensano explained this was partly due to a difference in counting, compared to other countries. This way of counting was criticised by Flemish Minister for Tourism, Zuhal Demir , as it would portray Belgium as bad in the fight against coronavirus and also would harm the Belgian reputation of being a prominent country in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
Belgian authorities however defend their strategy for being the most transparent and the most detailed method,  even if it results in numbers that are "sometimes overestimated". When several countries published excess mortality figures, it appeared that the criticised way [ who?
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Causing still an underreporting of around deaths. While the neighbouring Netherlands had an estimated excess mortality of 6,, with only 3, reported COVID deaths in that same period. Causing an underreporting of around deaths. To cope with the increasing influx of patients, several hospitals started to build new temporary facilities, such as the UZA clinic in Edegem with the construction of containers  or the Saint Peter's Hospital in Brussels with the set up of outside tents supported by the Belgian Red Cross.
Even if Belgium belongs to the EU's top five in terms of intensive care unit ICU capacity, with a number quoted to be around Some Belgian hospitals also appealed to the community to help, such as the UZ Leuven who called for mouth masks  and financial support for research into COVID ,  or Brussels Saint Peter's hospital who called for donations to buy life-saving ventilators. Attempts to predict the progress of the coronavirus spread with compartmental models are undertaken at Ghent University Prof Jan M. In an effort to alleviate the hand sanitiser shortage in Belgium, several Belgian companies started to make alcohol  or to manufacture hand sanitisers themselves, like the pharmaceutical company Janssen Pharmaceutica ,  the brewing company AB InBev  and the Sugar refinery of Tienen ,  reaching a total of 1 million liters of gel and ending the shortage in the country.
To make up for the shortage of medical masks , the Belgian textile sector was requested but unable to produce masks at short notice because of the lack of manufacturing capacity and of raw materials. The vaccines division of GlaxoSmithKline , which has its headquarters in Belgium, helped with providing its infrastructure and staff free of charge to carry out at least 6, PCR tests per day on their Rixensart site,  participating in an increase of the number of analyses in the country, as of 9 April.