Last Friday, the Federal Government and the Governments of the Federated entities, meeting in a Concertation Committee, discussed the situation of the coronavirus. The Concertation Committee believes that caution remains the guideline and wishes to give priority to education, young people and outdoor activities in the first instance.
Outdoor activities present a much lower virological risk. By being able to be in slightly larger groups outdoors, people can strengthen their social ties that bind them together – a basic human need that has been undermined by the pandemic. This is important for young people in particular.
Outdoors in larger numbers
From 8th of March onwards, 10 people will be able to gather outside. However, it is still important to respect the rule of physical distance of 1.5m.
From the 8th of March onwards, it will also be possible to gather with a maximum of 50 people for a funeral or burial, as long as a space of 10 square metres per person is provided.
Focus on young people and education
From the 8th of March onwards, organised outdoor activities (sports and other) will be permitted:
- For children (-13 years old) with max. 10 indoors or 25 outdoors.
- For young people (-19 years old) with max. 10 outdoor.
- The sports training audience is limited to one person per child.
From the 15th of March:
- Extra-curricular school activities of maximum 1 day will again be allowed in primary and secondary education.
- For vulnerable groups in special education and part-time vocational education, 100% face-to-face teaching will again be permitted.
- A maximum of 20% face-to-face teaching will be allowed in higher education.
In addition, AM will also allow photographers to receive clients from the 8th March (maximum 1 consumer per 10 square metres, living under the same roof). Private saunas will also be opened for use by people living under the same roof. Jacuzzis, steam cabins and hammams will remain closed.
As long as the epidemiological situation allows it and depending on the pressure on hospitals and the progress of the vaccination campaign, an Outdoors Plan will come into effect from April onwards, which should allow the following activities to take place:
- Outdoor activities organised for everyone (sports associations or others, including sports training): maximum 10 people. The public during sports trainings will be limited to one person per -19 years old.
- Culture, events and worship: maximum 50 people, subject to the rules of distance and the obligation to wear a mask.
- Amusement parks.
- Primary and secondary education: after the Easter holidays, face-to-face lessons every day.
The Consultation Committee also decided to authorise during the Easter holidays activities organised with overnight accommodation for children and young people up to and including 18 years of age, provided that the group has a maximum of 25 people, not including supervision. The camp can only take place if all participants are tested before the start of the camp and at the end of the camp.
Massive investment in rapid tests
Provided that the epidemiological situation permits and depending on the pressure on hospitals and the progress of the vaccination campaign, and with the use of rapid tests, it will be possible to plan even more outdoor and indoor activities on the 1st of May. These include social contacts, outdoor and indoor catering, shopping and itinerant shops, culture and events, youth activities, worship, community life and sport, home care and funfairs.
Rapid tests could play a key role here. This will require the development of a flexible legal framework so that antigenic tests are widely available in the short term.
The Covid-19 Management Strategy Expert Group (GEMS) has been asked to develop a more detailed plan of approach so that the next steps can be taken safely. Particular attention will be paid to immunization and the role of CO2 measurement devices in reviving indoor activities.
Rules for non-essential travel
The Concertation Committee decided to maintain for the time being until 18 April 2021 the ban on travel for recreational or tourist purposes to and from Belgium, but this measure will be re-evaluated at the next Concertation Committee meeting. The travel ban is a responsible and indispensable measure if the circulation of the virus is to be prevented.
The Consultation Committee will review the situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium on the 26th of March.