Flanders has issued a ban on visits to nursing homes to protect elderly residents from the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic, making it the last region in Belgium to do so.
The decision by Health Minister Wouter Beke comes after three elderly coronavirus patients became the first Belgian casualties of the outbreak on Wednesday.
Health authorities on Wednesday confirmed that a 90-year-old woman had become the first person to die, and hours later announced the deaths of an 86-year-old and a 73-year-old.
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The 86-year-old patient had died in a rest home in Sint-Genesius-Rode, a municipality just outside Brussels, where had been quarantined after testing positive for the virus.
"The message should be clear: stay away from older and frail people unless there are really no alternatives," Beke said, in a message that he said applied to "all of society."
The news comes after the outbreak of the new Covid-19 coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on Wednesday evening.
The Brussels Times