Belgium to ban non-essential travel starting from Jan. 27

BRUSSELS, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Belgium will start to ban non-essential travel from or to the country starting on Jan. 27, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced Friday.

"As of January 27, recreational and tourist travel is prohibited. This applies to travel from or to our country," the prime minister said at a press conference.

The ban will be valid until March 1.

"Foreign nationals entering our country for professional reasons will have to show a double test: a negative PCR test on departure and a negative PCR test on arrival," said De Croo.

"Non-medical contact professions can only reopen at the earliest from Feb. 13, under the condition that the epidemiological situation improves compared to the current situation, and the evaluation will be made in the Consultation Committee on Feb. 5," he said.

Essential travel, however, will be allowed. This is the case for family reasons such as co-parenting, medical treatment, and work-related travel.

The prime minister reiterated the importance of continuing to apply the traditional rules of distancing, wearing a mask, hydro-alcoholic hand hygiene and doing outdoor activities.

The epidemiological situation in Belgium remains fragile. From Jan. 12 to 18, there were 1,963 new infections on average per day, reported the public health institute Sciensano on Friday.

Hospitalizations are on the rise, with an average of 125.3 new admissions per day in the last week (Jan. 15-21).

To date, Belgium has recorded a total of 686,827 COVID-19 cases and 20,620 deaths.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 237 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 64 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 15.

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