Coronavirus: new measures expected as public concern grows in Belgium
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Coronavirus: new measures expected as public concern grows in Belgium

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New measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus in Belgium are expected on Thursday, as federal ministers meet to reassess the country’s response to the characterisation of the outbreak as a pandemic.

Belgium’s National Security Council met on Thursday morning and is set to gather again in the course of the evening, the cabinet of Interim Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès confirmed, Le Soir reports.

The second meeting of the Council was pencilled into the agendas following a request by Wilmès, and comes one day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

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Made up of the prime minister, deputy prime ministers and home, foreign affairs, defence and justice ministers, the Council is expected to announce additional measures to halt the spread of the outbreak.

The meeting comes as public concern grows over a perceived sluggish response by the government to halt the outbreak in the country, as the number of confirmed cases reached 399 on Thursday.

On Thursday, the hashtag #StayHomeBelgium began trending on Twitter, as users called for the public to help “flatten the curve” of the contagion in the face of “ambiguous” government recommendations.

A fortnight after the first active case of the virus was reported in Belgium and as the number of cases continues to increase daily, the bulk of official measures taken by government officials continue to rely mostly on social distancing and personal hygiène recommendations.

Ahead of the meeting, Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon called for increased intervention from the federal government, saying it was “time” for it to step in and steer other levels of government in responding to the outbreak.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times