The State Border Committee of Belarus announced new travel restrictions on Monday that prevent all citizens from leaving the country, reports BBC. This is the latest development in a series of controversial actions by the Belarus government.

  • Air travel in and out of Belarus has come to a standstill after the recent airplane incident where the Belarus government forced a Ryanair flight to make an emergency landing, allowing government authorities to arrest a key dissident, reports the Deseret News.
  • The E.U. has block most flights into or over the country, reports German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
  • The restrictions essentially block land border crossings, according to Deutsche Welle.

The new restrictions come as President Alexander Lukashenko continues to crack down on dissidents following disputed elections last August and mass protests brutally quelled, reports BBC. Many Belarusian citizens have fled the country since last fall.

What you need to know about the Belarus airplane incident

What are the new Belarus border restrictions?

Belarus already had tight border controls that began in December, reports Deutsche Welle. Most citizens were not allowed to leave the country, only those who had a long-term residency permit in a foreign country could exit.

  • Under the new restrictions, even those with long-term residency permits are not allowed to leave, says BBC.

Only two groups are people remain exempt from the tighter restrictions: Those who can prove permanent residency in another country and civil servants or state transport staff on official short-term trips, reports BBC and MSN.

  • Exempted foreigners can only leave the country after a 10-day self-isolation period, says BBC.

According to MSN and the State Border Committee, the new restrictions are temporary, but they agency did not announce a timeline.

Why did restrictions change?

According to the State Border Committee via BBC, the restrictions changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many citizens have left Belarus since last fall’s disputed elections and mass protests, says MSN.

  • Many information technology and medical experts have left the country, reports Deutsche Welle.
  • Belarusians have fled to Poland or neighboring Lithuania, says BBC.

Representative from the opposition party Valery Kavaleuski tweeted that the new restrictions were an “outright violation of the law.”

Police, protesters clash after Belarus presidential vote
What’s happening in Belarus? A brief explainer about the protests and election