Belgium said non-essential travel to Madrid and the Basque Country should be postponed as cases of the coronavirus pandemic multiply in both Spanish regions.
“In line with the recommendations of local authorities, it is advised to postpone non-essential travel to these regions until further notice,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry wrote in an update of its travel recommendations on Wednesday.
The recommendation follows a decision by authorities to put residents in Madrid and in the northwestern Basque Country on lockdown, announcing the shutting of schools on Monday.
A major infection cluster is located in Spain’s capital region, where 1,024 have tested positive for the virus and 31 people have died from it, while there have been 261 in the Basque Country, according to the latest figures by Spanish daily El País.
Together with Italy and France, Spain is one of the EU countries the most hard-hit by the virus, totalling 2,240 confirmed cases, out of which 135 have recovered and 55 have died.
The news comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new Covid-19 coronavirus as a pandemic, urging governments to step up efforts to fight the global contagion.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus said world’s top health authority was “deeply concerned” by the coronavirus’ “alarming” spread and severity but also by the levels of “inaction” to rein the outbreak.
“We have never seen a pandemic that can be controlled before,” he added, noting that countries could still turn the tide on the first coronavirus to be declared a pandemic by the organisation.