The confirmation of a case of the new coronavirus infection at the weekend saw Belgium shift gears and enter phase 2 of its health risk containment strategy.
The entry into phase 2 out of 3 means that official measures will now focus on containing the virus from spreading further inside the country.
“Infected patients are taken into care and treated in a safe environment. Every person whom they have had close contact with (family, colleagues, fellow travellers) is identified and contacted by competent regional services,” according to a statement by the interim prime minister.
The prime minister’s statement said that tests were conducted “if necessary,” and that the persons who presented no symptoms could resume their everyday activities freely.
“Regarding people who have recently been in a high-risk area, an increased vigilance is requested,” the statement added.
A Flemish man repatriated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, was the first in Belgium to test positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus at the start of February, but has since recovered.
In a press conference given after a second active case was confirmed in Antwerp on Saturday, health authorities on Monday announced that, including the man who has been cured, the number of confirmed cases in Belgium was now eight, and that they expected that number to rise.
Officials did not provide information regarding the identities of the six new cases, except for a woman who at least two health ministers said was a Brussels resident who had recently been in northern Italy, a focal outbreak point.
The seven ongoing cases of coronavirus are “monitored closely,” Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block said as she announced the new cases in a press conference on Monday.
“They are not allowed to come back into contact with others until they are no longer contagious,” De Block told reporters.
Phase 3 of the risk containment plan will be activated at the moment when authorities can no longer accurately follow how and where the virus is spreading within the country.
At this stage, authorities can decide to shut schools and stop public transport as well as public locations such as the cinema.