Earlier curfew and closed shops: What is Belgium's Covid Plan B?

Earlier curfew and closed shops: What is Belgium's Covid Plan B?
Credit: Belga

As Belgium's infections and hospitalisations rise again, the GEMS experts have advised the government to switch to 'Plan B' of the coronavirus managing strategy.

But what exactly is Plan B? 

In mid-January, authorities asked experts to draw up a detailed course of action - including a plan A, B and C - for the Consultative Committee to follow if the figures started worsening.

That time, it seems, could be now, as those same experts advise the government to move to 'Plan B' of that strategy, in an effort to "stop this rising trend as soon as possible and get the numbers back under control."

If put fully into effect, Plan B includes six measures that should be taken "swiftly, to avoid having to go into full lockdown."

These are:

-  Implement an earlier and streamlined curfew throughout the country. Currently, the curfew applies between midnight and 5:00 AM in Flanders and Wallonia, and from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM in Brussels.

-  Look into adding a week of 100% distance learning to the planned school break, which would be the Easter holidays (from Saturday 3 April to Sunday 18 April). Exceptions can be made for schools for children with specific needs.

-  Adapt the testing strategy for children.

-  Implement a face mask obligation for children over 10 years old. This measure was already agreed on earlier this week at a meeting with the education partners: from Monday, pupils in the 5th and 6th year in primary school (ages 10-12) will also have to wear a mask.

-  Reconsider more general use of FFP2-masks in specific settings, such as in the healthcare sector and vulnerable groups.

-  Consider closing non-essential shops in crowded places with insufficient crowd control, such as busy shopping streets.

Speaking to VTM, virologist and GEMS-member Steven Van Gucht said that Plan B provides the authorities with a number of restrictions to consider, "but it is up to the Consultative Committee whether or not they implement them."

"The most profit can now be made by limiting the number of close contacts," he said. "Let us now be a little stricter with ourselves for a few weeks."

Belgium's Consultative Committee will meet from 3:00 PM today - a week earlier than initially planned - to discuss the current measures and "analyse the situation in detail on the basis of the latest figures.”

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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