Luxembourg: Additional State Aids for Businesses

To help businesses to face covid-19 crisis and its impact on the economy, parliament on Thursday passed laws allowing two new forms of state aid, including compensation for the increase of the minimum wage.

Two new business aid measures, already outlined earlier this month by minister for small and medium-sized enterprises Lex Delles (DP), were adopted by MPs in the chamber on Thursday. Thery are aimed at helping businesses overcome the economic repercussions of the health crisis.

In order to help cover part of the uncovered costs of businesses in the restaurant, tourism, event, culture and entertainment sector, new financial assistance will be allocated in the form of monthly capital grants.

This contribution is only being allocated to companies that were already active in 2019. A company launched in April 2020, for instance, will not be eligible. In addition, in order access the grants, businesses must have suffered an economic loss of at least 40% during the period from 1 November 2020 to 30 March 2021, compared to the same period in 2019-2020.

Authorities will also take into account the size of the business. Accordingly, the maximum monthly subsidy is €20,000 for micro-enterprises (below 10 employees), €100,000 for small businesses (10-50 employees) and €200,000 for medium-sized (50-250 employees) and large businesses (more than 250 employees).

The form to request these aids can be found online.

Compensating the increase in minimum social wage

The aid announced by prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) to compensate for the increase in the minimum social wage (SSM), which will come into play as of 1 January 2021, was also adopted by MPs on Thursday. This is a €500 capital subsidy that can only be paid once to businesses in sectors hit the hardest by the covid-19 crisis.

The amount is calculated on the basis of the number of full-time employees hired before 31 December 2020.

Extension of the short-time working scheme

Finally, during a meeting of the economic and social committee on 17 December, it was decided that businesses forced to keep their doors closed in light of the current restrictions, may, in exceptional cases, benefit from an additional period to apply for short-time work for the month of January 2021.

To this end, the companies in question, who have not yet submitted a short-time working application for the month of January will be able to do so via MyGuichet.lu until 30 December 2020 included.

This article was originally published in French on Paperjam.lu and translated and edited for Delano. 

COVID-19: The Concertation Committee gives green light to the opening of non-essential shops and specifies the coronavirus control measures for the Christmas season

On November 27th, the Concertation Committee discussed the epidemiological situation in Belgium. Despite the slight improvement in the health situation, the country remains at Covid alert level 4. The Concertation Committee took the following decisions:

Reopening of shops under strict conditions:

Non-essential shops can reopen from 1 December 2020. However, strict hygiene conditions will apply:

  • Strict observance of basic rules, such as washing hands, keeping distance, wearing a mask;
  • Preventive measures must be visibly announced to all visitors, including staff and suppliers;
  • Hydroalcoholic hand gel must be available at the entrance; everyone entering the shop must disinfect their hands;
  • Staff must be properly trained;
  • Purchases are made individually with an adult for each shopping session. The company of children up to and including the age of 18 is limited as far as possible;
  • The visit to the shop should be as short as possible and last a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • The shop is also responsible for managing the queue outside the shop. Supervision of customers waiting outside the shop should be organised in such a way that the rules of physical distance are respected. The organisation outside the shop is done according to the guidelines of the local authorities.

The conditions also affect the maximum number of customers per square meter of accessible surface:

  • For shops, the rule of 1 customer per 10 square metres of accessible area applies
  • Shops of less than 20 m² can receive a maximum of 2 customers at a time, provided that the distance rules are respected;
  • Large shops of more than 400 m² must compulsorily provide access control;
  • Access to shopping centres, shopping streets and car parks must be organised by the competent municipal authorities, in accordance with the instructions of the Minister of the Interior, in such a way as to respect distance rules, in particular the maintenance of a distance of 1.5 metres between each person.

Museums and swimming pools may be opened in accordance with the protocol for their sector.

The Christmas period:

Also, during the Christmas period, the rules on social contacts remain applicable. In the interests of psychosocial well-being, single people can invite two close contacts at the same time, either on 24th or 25th December.

For meetings abroad, the rule of four still applies.

The curfew between 00h00 and 05h00 remains in force, as does the general ban on meetings. A general ban on the sale and release of fireworks also applies.

Reinforced travel controls:

For persons who have been abroad for more than 48 hours and will remain in Belgium for more than 48 hours, the police will carry out reinforced controls:

  • The obligation to fill in a passenger locator form;
  • Compliance with the compulsory quarantine.

All the above measures will be in force until 15th January 2021. An assessment based on medical indicators will be carried out at the beginning of January to determine whether a transition to the management phase is possible (see below) and for which sectors.

Downhill phase and management phase:

The Concertation Committee also decided to work in two phases on health management:

  • A downstream phase during which it is necessary to reduce the figures linked to pollution as quickly as possible by means of strict measures;
  • A management phase during which sector-specific protocols are in force. The sectoral protocols, which exist in various versions depending on the level of alert, are therefore reduced to a single protocol per sector, which is applied during the management phase and defines how to behave in a company that offers a sufficient level of protection against coronavirus.

To move from the downstream phase to the management phase, the incidence rate will have to be low for a sufficiently long period of time. In addition, not all sectors will be in the same phase at the same time. This will depend largely on the epidemiological risk posed by the sector.

Source: info-coronavirus

Restaurants and cafes will close since Thursday November 26th in Luxembourg

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert confirmed on Monday new measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Thursday, cafes and restaurants will have to close their doors.

Restaurants and cafes will have to close for three weeks as from Thursday, announced Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (DP) and Minister of Health Paulette Lenert (LSAP), in a press conference on Monday. “In the view of the evolution of the figures over the past few days, we have asked the congress to vote on the text presented last week. The vote will take place in Wednesday’s plenary and should enter into force the next day,” said the Prime Minister, adding that the curfew also remains applicable and will be extended until December 15.

In addition to the horeca sector, the number of visitors to private homes drops from 4 to 2, also until December 15, when the situation will be reassessed. “Just because restaurants are closed doesn’t mean you have to organize dinners at home,” Bettel said.

Theaters, cinemas, indoor play areas will be closed and the holding of fairs and other events will be suspended. Stores, for their part, will remain open, although the government nonetheless calls for avoiding non-essential activities.

Schools open, gyms closed

The schools will remain open – as well as their canteens – but the educational outings will be canceled. However, sport will be maintained there. The same goes for professional athletes who, because of their profession, will be able to continue training. Amateurs will again be deprived of sports, fitness and team sports halls.

“Sport is important, but we cannot afford to leave open places where we do not wear a mask”, underlines the Prime Minister, who recalls that it is always possible “to walk with four other people or to jog “, while respecting safety distance.

“We have a still stable situation, which is not catastrophic, but we want to have margins for what will come. Our measures allow, according to the opinions we have received, to anticipate. The level of contamination remains too high and we are taking these measures to avoid finding ourselves in a situation, in a few weeks, where we could not avoid total containment “, justified the Prime Minister.

Source: Paperjam.lu

Federal government votes in favor of comprehensive socio-economic support plan

The coronavirus crisis is not just a health crisis. It is also a serious socio-economic crisis that is hiting hard people and businesses. The federal government cannot and does not want to remain indifferent to all these people and businesses that are on the brink. They need help today: concrete support that is significant enough to get them through this second difficult period in less than a year.

This is why the government chooses not only to extend the support measures that were in force during the confinement imposed in the spring (until the first quarter of 2021 included), but also announces a whole new series of measures. The cost of this aid could be seen as a one-time expense, but it is much more than that: it is an investment in people and businesses that before the crisis were self-sufficient and economically sound, but they are no longer because of the difficult circumstances.

With these support measures, the federal government focuses on four main objectives:

1.support people who had a job but who, due to the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus, lost it or had to close their business. We want to support them both in their income and in maintaining their social rights;

2. Save healthy companies by supporting them both in terms of their liquidity (cash flow) and their solvency;

3. Support people living in poverty or at increased risk of poverty. As they are often disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis;

4. Strengthen crucial sectors which have been particularly affected by the crisis: in particular health care, education and agriculture and horticulture.

  1. Main measures

Extension of existing measures

1. Possibility of individual postponement of payments in the fiscal field without fines or late interest.

2. Tax exemption of subsidies granted by towns, municipalities and federated entities.

3. Reduction of VAT (6%) on hydroalcoholic gel and masks.

4. Extension of free notarial powers of attorney avoiding going to the notary.

Suspension of checks on the residence condition (maximum 29 days abroad per year) under the income guarantee for the elderly (GRAPA).

  • Business support

Extension of existing measures

6. Extension of the increased deduction for investment of 25% until the end of 2022, allowing SMEs, one-person businesses and the liberal professions to deduct a large part of their investments from their taxable income.

7. Extension of the SME guarantee scheme and the credit insurance guarantee scheme until June 30, 2021. Simultaneously with this extension, the Ministry of Finance will extend, in consultation with the financial sector, the current moratorium for loans to companies.

8. Reopening of temporary unemployment due to force majeure to all companies. During this period, the temporarily unemployed salaried worker receives compensation equal to 70% of his gross monthly salary (capped at 2,754.76 euros). In addition, the salaried worker receives an allowance from the ONEM of 5.63 euros per day of temporary unemployment. This measure will apply until March 31, 2021, with the possibility of extension.

New measures

9. Implementation of the agreement of the social partners by which the State partially intervenes in the financing of the holiday pay for the temporarily unemployed. In the calculation of this holiday pay, the days of temporary unemployment are assimilated to days worked.

10. Broadening of the scope of the exemption from social security contributions for the third quarter of 2020 to other sectors (than the hotel and catering industry and the events sector) which have been forced to close. Suppliers in sectors that have had to shut down can also resort to this measure if they can provide evidence of a loss of sales of at least 65%. A ceiling will be applied per company with regard to the total amount of this exemption.

  • Support for self-employed workers

Extension of existing measures

11. Extension of the double “droit passerelle” right in force until December 2020 inclusive for all sectors that have had to close. For a self-employed person with no family, this amounts to 2,583.4 euros per month. For a self-employed person with a dependent family, this amounts to 3,228.2 euros per month.

12. A new “droit passerelle” will come into force from 1 January 2021, which can still be invoked in the event of a crisis. It will be based on a significant decrease in turnover. The concrete modalities will soon be developed taking into account the opinions of the General Management Committee.

13. Additional postponement for the payment of the contribution payable by companies until the end of 2020. A postponement was already planned until October 31, 2020; it is now extended until December 31, 2020.

14. Supplementary allowance for incapacity for work so that self-employed cohabitants who are sick also benefit from an allowance as high as the “droit passerelle” (this is already the case for single self-employed workers and self-employed workers with family responsibilities) . Concretely, this is a premium of more than 300 euros per month.

New measures

15. Temporary improvement of traditional “droit passerelle”, in particular through better accessibility for starters and maintenance of the constitution of pensions.

16. Payment plans for self-employed workers who have obtained a deferral of payment of social contributions, while retaining the right to reimbursement of health care costs. Until December 31, 2021.

  • Support for salaried workers

Extension of existing measures

17. Reduction in the withholding tax for temporary unemployment.

18. The Ministry of Finance and the Minister of the Economy will consult with the financial sector in order to extend the current moratorium on mortgage and consumer loans. The consultation will also concern “leasing”.

19. Temporary unemployment due to a child in quarantine. The current measure will be extended to other situations where the child must be placed in quarantine, with a certificate of control.

20. Additional allowances for incapacity for work to reach the level of temporary unemployment benefit. Concretely, this means that, if the incapacity for work allowance is less than 70% of the average gross monthly salary (capped at 2,754.76 euros), it will be accompanied by a supplement of 5.63 euros per day. up to that amount.

Flexible access to unemployment for artists. Artists who can provide proof of at least 10 artistic performances or 20 days of work during the period from March 13, 2019 to March 13, 2020, are granted access to artist unemployment.

22. Additional budget of 13.07 million euros for consumer vouchers in the healthcare sector and extension of the validity of consumer vouchers until the end of 2021.

New measures

23. Payment by the ONEM of a supplement to the end-of-year bonus to workers who have been temporarily unemployed for a long time. Workers who have been temporarily unemployed for at least 52 days in 2020 will receive a supplement to their end-of-year bonus of 10 euros per additional day of temporary unemployment (beyond 52 days). For any worker meeting the conditions, the total supplement will always amount to a minimum of 150 euros.

24. Support plan for (tele) services and teleworking of civil servants. Concretely, this involves providing coaches and training in stress resistance and the fight against burnout for managers in the context of remote management of staff, improving the effectiveness of interviews and selection tests and improvement of digital communication for civil servants.

25. A single envelope of 200 million euro is foreseen for hospital staff (salaried and self-employed workers). The competent minister will consult with the social partners to finalize these support measures for hospital staff. Consultation will also take place with the federated entities in the Interministerial Public Health Conference.

  • Support for the most vulnerable

Extension of existing measures

26. Grant of 50 euros per month for beneficiaries of the integration income, the income guarantee for the elderly (GRAPA) and the income replacement allowance (ARR).

27. Extension on the freeze of the degression of unemployment benefits until the end of 2020. As a result, the unemployed will not experience a reduction in their unemployment benefits from April 1 to December 31, 2020.

28. Continuation of winter plan for homeless people.

29. Increase in the reimbursement percentage (up to 15%) to the CPAS for the payment of integration income.

New measures

30. Entry into action of the Vulnerable Groups Task Force. This task force will develop measures, in collaboration with actors on the ground, to support the most vulnerable. A budget of 75 million euros is foreseen for this purpose.

  • Additional workers in critical sectors

Extension of existing measures

31. Increase in the quota of voluntary overtime up to 220 hours in the healthcare sector, other crucial sectors and essential services. This additional overtime will be tax exempt; no additional salary will be applied.

32. Facilitate the temporary posting of workers to another employer in the healthcare or education sector.

33. Temporarily unemployed people can work in agriculture and horticulture, healthcare and education, with 75% of their benefits maintained.

34. Allow the temporarily unemployed to conclude successive fixed-term contracts of at least 7 days with another employer, in the care and education sectors.

35. Increase in the ceiling for the accumulation of integration income with seasonal work income and student work income with a study grant.

36. Extension of COVID-19 Volunteer Compensation Fund and Authorization for Commercial Hospitals to Engage Volunteers.

37. Extension of measures relating to pensions. The aim is, among other things, that pensioners who have an activity as an employee or self-employed can combine their pension with temporary unemployment compensation or “droit passerelle”. In addition, the constitution of the pension of temporarily unemployed persons will be preserved, including the constitution of the second pillar. It is also necessary to prevent pensioners who temporarily resume an activity, for example in the health care or education sector, from losing part of their pension.

38. Doubling of the seasonal work quota also in 2021 and temporary unemployment for seasonal workers who arrive in Belgium and must be placed in quarantine.

Source: belgium.be

COVID-19- The federal government and the governments of the states have today decided in the Consultative Committee to proceed to a stricter lockdown

The stricter rules are necessary to stop the increasing pressure on the hospitals and to change the infection curve as quickly and radically as possible.

1. Social life

  • Each family member is entitled to 1 close contact. Families should only invite one close contact at a time at home. One cannot receive another visit at home. There is an exception for people who live alone: ​​they are allowed, in addition to their close contact, to invite person, but not at the same time.
  • Meetings outside: rule of four, at a safe distance
  • Funerals with a maximum of 15 people present. Without meal or reception afterwards.
  • Places of worship open, but without worshipping. Meetings of up to 4 people, with a face mask and at a safe distance.
  • The borders are not closed in accordance with European agreements, but foreign travel is strongly discouraged.
  • Marriages take place only in the presence of the spouses, witnesses and civil registrars.

2. Economic life

  • Telework is mandatory, wherever possible. Where telework is not possible, mouth masks and ventilation are mandatory. Company canteens will be closed.
  • The holiday parks and campsites will be completely closed from Tuesday morning 3rd November. Indoor and outdoor activities will be stopped in holiday parks until then. Swimming pools, restaurants and bars will be closed. Meals are taken in the holiday homes, per family.
  • Hotels and B & Bs will remain open, but restaurants and bars will close. Meals are taken in the room.
  • Non-essential stores close, but can organize pick-up and home delivery of pre-ordered goods. No access to the shop upon collection.
  • To maintain a level playing field, supermarkets and markets (<200 people) limit their offer to what is offered in the essential shops.
  • Bicycles workshops and bicycle shops only carry out repairs.
  • Non-medical contact professions (including hairdressers, make-up artists, wellness, massage, beauty salons) will close.
  • Businesses and agricultural holdings will remain open, subjected to the obligations regarding teleworking, mask and social distancing.
  • Zoos are closed.

3. Schools

  • Classes will be suspended on November 12th and 13th for all levels of education. Classes will continue on Monday, November 16th.
  • For secondary education, students of the second and third level will have a maximum of 50% in person education, until December 1st. Before December 1st, we will evaluate whether up to 100% of in person education is possible again.
  • Distance learning is provided for higher education:
    • For the freshmen: until December 1st when they can start in person education again.
    • For senior students: at least until the end of the year.
  • Teachers meetings are online; this also applies to pedagogical study days.
  • It is forbidden to organize physical team building.

4. Start and end date

  • The measures will take effect across the territory from Monday, November 2nd, 2020.
  • The measures apply for a month and a half, until Sunday December 13th, 2020. For the non-essential stores, an evaluation by the Consultative Committee will take place on December 1st.

 

Source: Belgium.be

New measures adopted in Brussels and Wallonia to fight the Covid-19 virus

In view of the gravity of the second wave of the epidemic in Wallonia, the governments of Wallonia and the Walloon-Brussels Federation, in agreement with the governors of the five Walloon provinces, have adopted a series of measures in addition to those decided by the Federal Coordination Committee on October 23.

These measures enter into force on Monday 26 October and will last at least until 19 November.

  • Curfew extended from 22h to 6h

This curfew applies except in the case of essential travel that cannot be postponed, such as:

o Access to medical care;
o Assistance and care of the elderly, minors, disabled and vulnerable persons;
o Business travel, including travel to and from work.

  • Stores and shops

Purchases must be made by a maximum of two people (except for children under 12).

  • Teleworking

Teleworking is mandatory. In the case of occupations where workers are unable to perform their activities through telework, employers and unions must ensure that rules on social distancing, the use of protection masks and other health measures are effective and monitored.

  • Residencial centers, retirement and nursing homes

Visits to the residencial centers, retirement and nursing homes are limited to a maximum of one visitor per resident, always the same for 15 days. After this first 15-day cycle, either the visitor begins a new 15-day cycle of visits or a new visitor begins a new 15-day cycle of visits.

The visits must take place in a dedicated space and not in the room (except in exceptional end-of-life situations or in the presence of a slip syndrome).

In order to reinforce the teams that are in the front line in the nursing homes and hospitals, the Walloon Government also calls on home care nurses, nursing students, care assistants and medical students. For nursing homes and residential centers for the disabled, educators are called upon. All these people can get involved on the website solidaire.aviq.be.

  • Higher education

All higher education classroom courses are suspended until November 19 (except for practical work, laboratories and internships).

  • Sports

All indoor sports are suspended until November 19, except for children under 12.

Amateur sports competitions and sports training for children over 12 are prohibited.

In addition, Brussels has also taken the measures announced below:

  • The curfew will be extended from 22h to 6h, as in Wallonia.
  • Protection masks are once again compulsory at all moment outdoors.
  • It will be forbidden to gather more than four people in the public space.
  • Drastic reinforcement of teleworking by making it compulsory.
  • The stores will have to close at 20h. Only one person will be allowed to enter the stores to do their shopping. Deliveries can be made until 22h.
  • Cultural centers, theaters and cinemas must close, as well as all sports facilities. All sports competitions are cancelled, even for children under 12, but training sessions for those under 18 will continue. Training sessions for those over 12 are also cancelled.
  • The rules regarding residencial centers do not change, visits are still limited to two people.
  • Marriage celebrations will only take place in the presence of the spouses, their witnesses and the registrar (civil marriage) or the officiant (religious marriage). For funeral ceremonies, only a maximum of 15 persons are allowed.

All these measures are applicable from today, October 26th until November 19th.

Sources: Wallonie and bx1

New measures adopted in Luxembourg to fight the Covid-19 virus

The Luxembourgish government has adopted new measures addition to the already existing ones. They are of three types and will apply during one month.

  • A curfew will be applied between 23h and 6h. At that time, you will have to be at home. Residents will have to organize themselves: 23h will not be the time they leave the restaurant table, but the time they are present at home.
  • Amateur sports competitions are suspended. This weekend, in the BGL League, only four of the eight scheduled matches took place. Therefore, the FLF has also decided to postpone all of them.
  • The social bubble narrows to four people. This is the maximum number of guests you will be able to receive under your roof at the same time and without protection masks. Specifically, you will be able to receive four people living in four different houses. Or more than four people if they belong to the same household. But not four groups of four people from different homes.
  • Four is now also the maximum number of people allowed in the same restaurant or café, unless they belong to the same family.

Source: Paperjam

Covid-19 Level 4 Alert: Stricter Rules from Monday 19 October

Following the worrying epidemiological situation, new, stricter measures will come into force from Monday 19 October. As of today, this situation brings the whole country to alert level 4 of the Covid-19 barometer (very high alert level).

The pressure on hospitals and on the continuation of health care not linked to Covid-19 is increasing. Some hospitals are facing numerous absences among their staff. Primary care, especially general medicine, also faces an increasing pressure.

The number of patients with Covid-19 in intensive care is now 2.5 times higher than at the end of March. To prevent hospitals from being further compromised, schools from closing, the economy from grinding to a halt and too many people from being isolated because of widespread containment, the Interinstitutional Concertation Committee has decided to take a number of measures:

  1. Close contacts are limited to a maximum of one person.
  2. Private meetings are limited to four persons for two weeks and always the same persons.
  3. Public meetings are limited to a maximum of four people.
  4. Teleworking becomes the rule, for the activities that allow it and with respect to the continuity of the management of companies and organisations, services and activities.
  5. Small markets and fairs remain open, but the consumption of drinks and food is prohibited. Markets and Christmas markets are prohibited.
  6. Cafes and restaurants are closed. This measure is valid for a period of four weeks and will be reviewed after two weeks. Take-away food can be collected from the establishment until 22h. Receptions and banquets organised by a professional restaurant or catering service are prohibited, except in hotels for guests staying there and funerary receptions (maximum forty people).
  7. Night shops must close at 22h. The sale of alcohol is prohibited after 20h.
  8. It is forbidden to be on the public highway between 24h and 5h, except for essential and non-delayable journeys, such as urgent medical reasons, business trips and travel between home and work.
  9. Indoor activities remain subject to existing protocols until their evaluation next Friday 23 October. The sale of food and drink is prohibited.
  10. Sports competitions: the space reserved for spectators will be halved from 400 to 200 (professionals) or made up solely of members of the same family unit (amateurs). Cafeterias and bars are closed.

The federal government and the governments of the federated entities will do their utmost to provide the best possible support to all those affected financially. Even so that the federal government will double the support it offers as a right of transition for self-employed people who are forced to close down. Existing support measures will be extended. An exemption from the ONSS (National Social Security Office) will also be introduced.

The measures enter into force today, Monday 19 October, and will remain in force for one month before being evaluated.

Source: belgium.be

National Security Council launches the risk management strategy

The National Security Council, enlarged to include the Minister-Presidents, met to discuss the work carried out by the evaluation unit (Celeval), who was asked to develop a longer-term vision of health risk management.

The six golden rules remain the same:

  1. Respect the rules of hygiene
  2. To practise your activities preferably outdoors
  3. Think about vulnerable people
  4. Keep your distance (1.5m)
  5. To limit close contact
  6. To follow the rules on gatherings

Concerning social contacts, citizens can see all the people they wish, provided they always keep their distance and, if this is not possible, wear a mask. In any case, citizens cannot see more than 10 people in the same place at the same time (excluding children).

Close contact with a person who is not part of their household, for more than 15 minutes without a distance of 1m50 and without a mask must be limited as much as possible. Given that studies show that most citizens need a numerical reference, the experts advise everyone not to have close contact with more than 5 people (outside the household) per month at this stage.

For events that are not organised by professionals, it is never possible to bring together more than 10 people at the same time in the same place (excluding children). On the other hand, events organised by professionals, under the cover of respect for the rules of the Horeca protocols, will not have a limit on the number of guests but will have to maintain a maximum of 10 people per table. Dancing will still not be allowed at this stage.

For events with audiences, the current rules will continue to apply until the protocols are adjusted. The National Security Council has asked Celeval to work with the relevant ministers and the different sectors to revise these rules to give stability and predictability to the sectors and give them the capacity to recover while continuing to protect public health.

Regarding wearing masks, it remains mandatory when safety distances cannot be guaranteed. Nevertheless, as it is unnecessary to impose it everywhere all the time, from 1 October masks will no longer be compulsory outdoors, except in extremely busy places where safety distances cannot be respected (determined by the local authorities) and in well-defined covered places such as public transport, shops or cinemas, for example, regardless of their level of attendance (see list in the ministerial order).

As far as shopping is concerned, there is no longer a limit on the number of people (always respecting the safety distance) and the time allowed for shopping.

In the professional environment, teleworking is still recommended.

On the basis of these six rules, Celeval’s experts continue to work on setting up a barometer of the epidemic at national, regional and also provincial level, which will be implemented gradually. This barometer needs to be further refined. It will operate according to a tiered principle: the more the situation worsens, the more restrictive measures need to be taken. It will be based mainly, but not exclusively, on the evolution of the number of hospitalisations. The aim is to reach a consensus in the Consultation Committee in a fortnight’ time.

A series of decisions have been taken on the subject of testing:

Increasing the testing capacity of existing triage centres and setting up new screening points. The federated entities are currently working on this.

The creation of a call-centre which will make it possible to concentrate all requests towards a single information point and relieve the burden on general practitioners.

The setting up of an appointment platform to dispatch requests through the available centres.

Reducing the administrative burden on doctors through the creation of a “Corona prescription” in mid-October for certain asymptomatic cases – such as return trips, for example.

Or encouraging patients to obtain the results of tests carried out directly on the internet, notably via the Cozo system or masanté.be.

About tracing, the Coronalert mobile application will be launched on 30 September. At the end of this month, a press conference will be organised with all the information about the application.

The quarantine has been shortened and simplified:

In the event of symptom(s), the patient must isolate himself immediately for 7 days and contact his doctor for a test as soon as possible. If the test is positive, the quarantine continues and if the test is negative, the patient can be released as soon as his/her clinical situation allows.

For asymptomatic persons who have had close contact with a positive person, as soon as the person learns or is contacted through contact tracing, the person immediately goes into quarantine for 7 days from the last day that the person had close contact with the infected person. This only in the case of close contact with the positive person. A single test is then necessary on the 5th day. If the test is positive, the quarantine is extended for another 7 days. If the test is negative, the quarantine ends after the 7th day.

As far as the return from holidays is concerned:

From Friday onwards, going to “red zone” region will be strongly discouraged but no longer forbidden.

Returning from an “orange zone” will no longer mean to be tested.

For travellers returning from a “red zone”, they will have to quarantine themselves from the 1st day of their return and test on the 5th day. They will be able to evade this obligation if they fill in a self-assessment document which, after analysis, authorises them to do so. These instructions do not apply to people who spend less than 48 hours in a red zone, such as cross-border commuters.

As regards couples of different nationalities and/or who reside in different countries, the conditions for their reunion have been relaxed. From now on, they will be required to prove at least six months (instead of one year) of living together, one year of relationship (instead of two) or, as before, the existence of a child together.

SOURCE:premier.be

Control of the sanitary situation, the beginning of the school year for all and future perspectives

The National Security Council, enlarged to include the Ministers-Presidents, met on Thursday 20 August to assess the epidemiological situation and identify measures that should be expanded and those that could be relaxed.

In addition to stabilizing our health situation, the measures in place in recent weeks were aimed at immunizing the beginning of the school year, that is, ensuring that the circulation of the virus is sufficiently controlled so that all children can return to school.

Therefore, all students will be able to return to school, at all levels of education, based on the “code jaune” established by the communities. As a reminder, the code jaune refers to a situation where the presence of the virus remains active but controlled. This system will allow a normal 5-day school week, provided that certain health measures are observed, such as the compulsory wearing of masks for students over 12 years of age and for teachers, and the suspension of certain extracurricular activities in secondary education.

In addition to this common regime, in communes where contamination peaks are observed, the change to an orange colour code will be decided by the Ministers of Education. This colour coding involves adjustments, such as reducing the number of school days for the second and third levels of secondary education. Parents, children and teachers will be informed by the schools.

At the higher education level, given the late start of the school year, consultations are still ongoing to harmonize the rules that will be applied on student campuses.

From 1 September and for a period of one month:

  • The social bubble of 5 persons, i.e. persons with whom citizens have close contacts, will continue to apply, under the same conditions as in August. Contacts within safe distances are still limited to 10 people at a time.
  • The general measures concerning social contacts are difficult to maintain in the long term. We must be able to move from crisis management to long-term risk management dynamics. We have to be able to reinvent the way we maintain social contacts in a sustainable way. In order to do this as normally as possible, while preserving everyone’s health, the experts at Celeval – with the support of other specialists such as psychologists – have been asked to give priority to this issue.
  • Receptions after funerals can be held with a maximum of 50 people, in accordance with the rules that apply to the hotel and catering sector. The next National Security Council will be interested in the question of a possible relaxation of the rules for receptions in general.
  • Regarding shops, it will now be possible to do shopping in pairs (these two people can be accompanied by minors living under the same roof or by a person who needs assistance) and this without any time limit. It goes without saying that everyone’s sense of responsibility is called upon to avoid the effects of crowds. Unlike the other measures valid from 1 September, this measure will apply from 24 August.
  • Concerning spectators, the maximum number of people admitted to an audience – at sporting events, theatres, cultural activities, places of worship, congress halls or auditoriums – will be increased to 200 people inside and 400 people outside. The use of a mask remains mandatory, as does compliance with safety standards and protocols. In order to give more flexibility – where safety rules are respected – to professionals, it will be possible to derogate from this rule after examination by the mayor and authorisation by the competent ministers.
  • Persons who have become physically separated in recent months because they come from different countries and who provide evidence of a lasting relationship but are not married will be able to cross the border as from 1 September. These persons will be subject to the same testing and quarantine rules as others.

With respect to travel, it was recalled that, since 1 August, any person arriving in Belgian territory after a stay abroad of more than 48 hours must fill in the passenger tracing form, which makes it possible to know where the traveller has been. In addition:

  • Anyone returning from a red zone should be tested and remain in quarantine even if they show no symptoms.
  • If the person returns from an orange zone, this is a recommendation. However, this recommendation should be taken seriously, especially if the person returning from an orange zone has had risky contacts.
  • In addition, citizens are asked to actively participate in tracing contacts with regional call centre managers.

The evolution of the health situation will, as always, be closely monitored and a new National Security Council will be organised next month. The long-term objective is to move from crisis management to a long-term risk management dynamic.