Adry Poelmans, Van Doosselaere Avocaten, Belgium

  1. The situation in Belgium is comparable to the measures taken in the rest of the world. On the 19thof March a lockdown in facts came into force. The Belgian government is reluctant on calling the current situation a full “lockdown”, however as you will notice below, a de facto lockdown has been put into place.
  2. After bars, restaurants and clubs were closed at midnight on Friday, 13thof March 2020, the Belgian government installed more stringent measures on Thursday 19th of March 2020.
  3. All non-essential movement of people on the Belgian territory has been prohibited, as well as gatherings of people who are not part of the same family. People must stay at home as much as possible. When venturing outside, a social distance of at least 1.5m must be respected at risk of being fined (these measures are heavily enforced by the police).

Travel within the territory is only allowed for essential movements (going to and from work if working from home cannot be organized, stocking life supplies, getting medical care and/or helping people in need). Working from home has become the norm as much as possible.  Moreover, all non-essential stores have been closed (such as clothing stores, garages, florists…).

  1. Some essential sectors of public interest are not obliged to close down or to organize working from home. A list of essential sectors has been published in a Ministerial Decree of 18thof March 2020.

Examples of essential sectors that remain open for business are (on the 27th of March 2020):

  • all medical professions;
  • telecom, media, journalists;
  • legal services (including lawyers);
  • insurance businesses;
  • Belgian customs departments;
  • all ports;
  • logistics services;

The list of the Ministerial Decree of 18th of March 2020 is constantly updated and reworked. Until further notice, all ports and related businesses are still open. Freight and movement of goods has not been suspended and is encouraged.

  1. Border controls have been put into place, even within the Schengen zone of the EU. The non-essential movement of citizens across borders has been temporarily suspended. This means that the borders with France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxemburg are effectively closed for people. This does not apply to goods, which are still allowed to be transported between countries.

The demand for air travel has plummeted. Belgian airports remain open, though our national carrier, Brussels Airlines, has suspended all flights until further notice. The demand for air travel is seemingly non-existent.

  1. However, the Port of Antwerp remains open. Unexpectedly, the traffic of goods has increased since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. Nevertheless, the Port notices more of its dockers calling in sick and further warns that storage issues will arise. Evidently, demurrages and detentions are also on the rise, given that uncollected cargo stacks up.
  2. Although courts remain open, all non-urgent cases have been postponed until further notice and all new civil cases will be introduced after the 19thof April 2020. Depending on the court, different measures have been installed.
  3. The above-mentioned measures were initially planned to remain in force until the 5thof April 2020. The Belgian Security Council assembles later today, Friday 27th of March 2020. It is anticipated that the measures will be extended and not alleviated. Experts predict that the measures will remain in force until at least the end of April 2020.