Cheat Sheet: What can you do over carnival holidays

Cheat Sheet: What can you do over carnival holidays
Credit: Belga/Pixabay

As Belgium's carnival holidays kick off, the options for activities and journeys remain limited, with many of the country's coronavirus fighting measures still in place.

Skiing holidays, a traditional journey for many people during the week-long break from school and work (from Saturday 13 to Sunday 21 February) remain forbidden this year, but here are some other options.

Can you take an overnight trip within the country?

While non-essential travel abroad remains banned, domestic tourism - such as a trip to the coast or the Ardennes - is still allowed. Hotels, apartment hotels, holiday homes and B&Bs are open, but their restaurants, bars or other facilities (such as a sports hall) have to remain closed. Ordering food, snacks or drinks via room service, however, is still allowed.

Since this week, vacation parks and camping sites have also opened again, following the decision from the Consultative Committee last Friday. 

Clients are allowed to use the swimming pool, if there is one, but not the recreational areas, provided that they respect the rules in the protocol applicable to swimming pools, according to the Crisis Centre's website.

As far as the number of people allowed per housing unit is concerned, the same rules as for private gatherings at home apply - meaning that a household can rent a housing unit together, or with a maximum of one so-called 'cuddle contact.'

Can children stay over with their grandparents?

Every household is only allowed to invite one cuddle contact to their home. In that case, staying the night is permitted.

However, if both grandparents have chosen a different grandchild as their cuddle contact, which is already strongly discouraged, both grandchildren cannot be present at the same time, according to the Crisis Centre.

Additionally, the Centre "strongly discourages" grandparents from having close contacts with grandchildren, according to their FAQ.

Can you take your children to the zoo?

Yes. Zoos also received the official go-ahead from the Consultative Committee to reopen from 13 February, under the same rules as nature parks, meaning that only outdoor activities are allowed.

Can you go ice skating if the ice gets thick enough?

The Nature and Forest Agency has forbidden ice skating in the open air on lakes or ponds that it owns or manages, as the risk that too many people gather together is too great.

Local authorities, however, can still decide to allow ice skating on their territory, and they will be the ones responsible for enforcing the measures. To check whether or not it is allowed, it is best to consult the website of the municipality in question.

Additionally, according to Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, ice skating is an outdoor sport, which is allowed with a group of a maximum of four people.

Can you travel to a second residence, if it is abroad?

No. Travelling abroad is only allowed for essential reasons, such as compelling family reasons and business trips.

Travelling to your second residence, however, is not considered essential, and is therefore prohibited, according to the Crisis Centre. Travelling to your second residence if it is in another part of Belgium, however, is still allowed.

The full list of exceptions to Belgium's travel ban can be found here.

Can you go shopping in France, the Netherlands or Germany?

Generally, no. Shopping is not considered an essential reason to travel.

However, people living in a border municipality are still allowed to cross the border for things that are part of the daily life of the people living there - such as going to the supermarket, or to work. People moving across the border always need to carry a "sworn statement" declaring the purpose of their trip.

Additionally, most non-essential shops in Belgium's neighbouring countries are closed.

Can you go to the hairdresser?

Yes. Hairdressers were given the green light to reopen from Saturday 13 February, under very strict conditions.

Salons can only work by appointment, so walk-ins are not allowed. Clients arriving early for their appointment will also have to wait for their turn outside.

Additionally, people hoping to get their beard trimmed during the holidays will be disappointed, as that is not allowed yet. The only thing hairdressers are allowed to do for now is cut hair, according to the Ministerial Decree.

As soon as all other non-medical contact professions - such as beauticians, massage salons and tattoo artists - can reopen on 1 March, barbers can also shape beards again.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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