On Wednesday, June 3rd, the National Security Council, extended to include the Ministers-President, approved the transition to Phase 3 of the phase-out plan starting on June 8th. As the daily reporting from the health authorities shows, the health indicators are encouraging. The experts have therefore given the green light to start this new phase.
This implies a radical change in approach compared to the rules that have been in force so far. After all, from now on, freedom is the rule and what is not allowed is the exception.
Any activities that are still banned are not allowed because they either involve too close contact between people or mass gatherings, or because no protocols – i.e. specific rules for a sector – have been defined yet.
This new approach must be understood at two levels. Firstly, the individual behaviour (How should I behave in light of my renewed freedom?) and secondly, the regulatory framework applicable to organised activities (Which protocols should professionals apply when organising activities?).
- As far as individual behaviour is concerned, there are six golden rules:
- Hygiene measures remain essential.
- Outdoor activities should be favoured wherever possible. Where necessary, rooms should be adequately ventilated.
- Additional precautions should be taken for people belonging to a high-risk group. A charter is being developed for older people who do volunteer work to provide them with more clarity about the activities they can engage in safely.
- The rules regarding safety distance continue to apply, except for people within the same family, for children under the age of 12 and for people with whom there is closer contact, i.e. the extended bubble. Those who cannot respect the safety distance have to wear a mouth mask.
- It is possible to have closer contact with 10 different people every week, in addition to the family members (= extended personal bubble). This is an individual right. These 10 people can change from one week to the next.
- Group meetings are limited to a maximum of 10 people, including children. This applies to all gatherings, regardless of whether they take place at home or outdoors (e.g. in the park or at a restaurant).
- Organised sports and now also cultural activities supervised by a person in charge are limited to 20 people in June and 50 people in July, provided that the safety distance is maintained.
- About the regulatory framework:
- All organised activities are resumed, unless the restart is planned in another phase, with protocols that protect both users and staff. These protocols are determined by the competent Minister, after consulting the GEES, in consultation with the sector and, in the case of North-South issues, with an inter-federal approach.
- The protocols will be evaluated by July 1st. If there is no protocol for a subsector, a document is placed online with the general rules that must apply as a minimum.
- Working from home is recommended where possible.
- The hospitality, sports and culture industries are the main industries where important decisions have been taken.
The industry is allowed to reopen partially. Gaming halls (e.g. casinos), banqueting and reception halls will not be allowed to reopen until July 1st. As far as banqueting and reception halls are concerned, they will be allowed to operate with a maximum of 50 people present, subject to the same conditions as catering. Nightclubs are not allowed to open before the end of August, as no safety distance can be ensured.
In addition to these exceptions, all other hospitality establishments such as cafes, bars and restaurants will reopen according to a very precise protocol.
The main features of this protocol include:
- A distance of 1.50 metres between the tables.
- A maximum of 10 persons per table.
- Each customer must remain seated at their own table.
- Waiters have to wear masks.
- All hospitality establishments are allowed to remain open until one o’clock in the morning, just like the night shops.
From June 8th, cultural activities may resume without an audience present.
Performances with an audience – including cinemas – can be resumed from July 1th, but only subject to specific rules regarding crowd management, such as respecting the safety distance in the audience and a maximum of 200 attendees.
Activities should be organised in such a way as to avoid gatherings of too many people, e.g. outside the venue.
When people take part in cultural and leisure activities, wearing a mask is recommended at all times.
Sporting and now also cultural activities that are organized and supervised by a person in charge are limited to 20 people in June and 50 people in July, subject to safety distances.
In these two industries – but not only those two – the very gradual reopening and associated requirements will make it more difficult to operate at a profit. At the federal and regional level, in addition to extending or adapting the generic measures to support the economy, we are currently working on a series of specific measures to help certain industries.
From June 8th, non-contact sports activities can be resumed, both indoor and outdoor, amateur or professional, league and training. Gyms and fitness rooms may also be reopened, subject to protocol.
- Contact sports (e.g. judo, boxing, football, etc.) should always be limited to “contactless” training.
- As far as sports facilities are concerned, the protocols will also have to be followed. Changing rooms and showers will still not be accessible.
- Swimming pools, saunas and wellness centres have to remain closed at this stage.
As far as sports are concerned, everything will be allowed again from July 1st, provided that the protocols are respected.
In both the cultural and sports industries, from July 1st, a seated audience of up to 200 people – regardless of the size of the venue – will be allowed, subject to safety distances and always in strict compliance with protocols.
Religious worship or gatherings may be resumed on June 8th, subject to, inter alia, the following rules:
- Safety distances must be observed with a maximum of 100 persons.
- As of July, this number will be increased to 200, just like in the cultural and sports industries.
- Rituals with physical contact are still not allowed.
From June 8th, it will be possible to travel inside of Belgium with trips lasting one or more days.
From June 15th, Belgium will open its borders for travel to and from the European Union, including the United Kingdom and the four other Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway). However, it is up to each country to decide whether to open its borders. To know the situation in the country of destination, it is therefore advisable to consult the website of the FPS Foreign Affairs. The conditions for travel outside of Europe have yet to be defined in light of the evolution of discussions at European level.
Leisure and free time
Leisure and free time activities are permitted from June 8th, except for conferences, amusement parks and indoor playgrounds, which may only be reopened from July 1st.
Cultural and leisure activities have to be organised in such a way as to avoid large gatherings. Wearing a mask is recommended at all times.
Gatherings (e.g. village fairs, village festivals, etc.) are prohibited until August 1st and may then be resumed gradually. Large-scale mass events, on the other hand, will remain prohibited until August 31st, as previously announced.
At the beginning of summer, an online evaluation tool will be made available for organisers who want to know whether they can organise an event and subject to what conditions.
Phases 4 and 5 of our phase-out strategy will take place in July and August, if the epidemiological situation permits.