Masks, restaurants, travelling… Belgium steps up the fight against the virus.
The fight against the coronavirus is far from over. The National Security Council (NSC) published new measures.
The evolution of the health situation required new and stricter actions, NSC members said on Thursday.
Phase 5 postponed
Although a certain relaxation of the measures was planned for 1st August, this will not finally happen. In view of the concerning development of the epidemic, the National Security Council has postponed phase 5 of the de-escalation. As a result, the maximum number of people for celebrations and events with indoor and outdoor audience will remain the same.
As announced at the end of June, the maximum number of people in celebration rooms is therefore 50, while events are limited to 200 participants indoors and 400 outdoors.
This deferral is also bad news for event organisers, who will not be able to resume their activities on 1st August. If the epidemiological situation allows it, these activities are expected to resume on 1st September.
The use of the mask is already mandatory in places such as cinemas or public transport, and in others it will also start to be mandatory from Saturday.
Specifically, the use of the mask will be required in markets, street markets, fairs, public buildings and commercial streets.
More generally, the mask will have to be worn in all highly-transited areas, private or public, which will be determined by the municipal authorities. It is also strongly recommended in other cases, especially in situations where safety distance cannot be ensured.
In restaurants and cafes, the use of masks will also increase, as this protection will become mandatory everywhere except at the table.
Another new feature will be that customers will be required to leave a telephone number or e-mail address to follow up of possible contaminations. The data collected will have to be destroyed after 14 days and cannot be used for any other purpose than fighting the epidemic, said Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès. A standard form allowing this information to be collected will be available from Saturday on the FPS Economie website.
In view of the excesses observed in certain establishments (non-compliance with the safety distance, illegal parties, etc.), controls will also be reinforced.
The night shops will have to close at 10 p.m. The idea of this measure is to fight the temptation of some customers to visit these shops after the restaurants and bars close.
Increasing the role of mayors
At the local level, mayors will now have “the necessary margin of manoeuvre” to take stronger action if the situation requires it, stated Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès.
In other words, the introduction of small-scale lockouts is not out of the question. However, local authorities will have to consult the regions and governors before taking additional protective measures.
Each of the regions has a phased programme of action that may be adopted by the mayors depending on the situation in their locality.
For travellers, the rules will now be a little more clear. An online form will soon be available on the Foreign Affairs website. Anyone travelling abroad for more than 48 hours will need to fill it in from 1st August.
This “Passenger Location Form” will be valid for everyone, regardless of the means of transport used.
As far as the “orange” zones are concerned, the NSC continues to recommend a period of quarantine and the performance of the test, measures which are compulsory for travellers returning from the “red” zones.
The social bubble of 15, the number of people you can keep in touch with each week, remains the same. However, its maintenance depends on everyone respecting the rules, the Prime Minister warned.
In Flemish nursing homes, visits are still allowed, but physical contact between visitors and residents is now prohibited.
In addition, each citizen must list all persons with whom he or she has had close contact each week.
In addition to these new measures, the Prime Minister has once again insisted that the six golden rules be respected. These rules are not “an advice, but a set of instructions”.
They include washing hands regularly, encouraging outdoor activities, being extremely cautious in the presence of people in risk groups and keeping a safety distance (1.5 metres) when possible.
Although repeated over and over again, these measures have probably been less followed in recent weeks. As a result, the NSC has just stepped up the pace again.