Belgium will lift the federal general face mask obligation and expand the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST), announced Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a press conference on Friday.
So far, Brussels is the only region actively planning to apply the CST system from 1 October, but Flanders and Wallonia have not ruled it out either.
Here's what you need to know:
What is it?
Fundamentally, the CST is proof that you have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks, have recently tested negative, or have been infected and recovered from coronavirus in the past six months.
For those who are vaccinated, this means that they simply show the QR code proving their vaccinated status when they want to enter a bar or restaurant. Non-vaccinated people, however, will have to get tested regularly as a negative result is only valid for one (self-test) or two days (PCR test).
“The CST is an instrument that can first of all secure the freedoms that people have acquired despite the virus,” Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said last week, adding that the authorities are also hoping that requiring the CST in more situations will be an incentive for the population to get vaccinated.
Will it go into effect in every region?
In the Brussels-Capital Region, Minister-President Rudi Vervoort confirmed the CST would be extended. “Face masks will remain compulsory in shops and in the hospitality industry,” he said.
“And, as is known, the CST will be extended. We are going to introduce the CST in the sports and hospitality sectors, among others," Vervoort said. "Huge efforts have already been made to raise the vaccination level but there is still a lot of work to be done."
What will happen in Flanders has yet to be decided, as Minister-President Jan Jambon announced after Friday's Consultative Committee meeting that the Flemish government will look into the regional interpretation of the measures "early next week."
Ahead of the Committee meeting, Jambon already stated that Flanders was open to applying the CST in certain situations deemed "useful and necessary," such as in healthcare facilities and in the municipalities just outside the Capital-Region.
In Wallonia, Minister-President Elio Di Rupo announced on Thursday 23 September that, from mid-October, the CST would be expanded in the entire region for everyone aged 16 or over.
People will be required to show a valid CST to gain access to bars, nightclubs, events and residential care centres, as well as sports halls and fitness centres, Di Rupo said on RTBF television.
"We want to be transparent, clear and coherent for the citizens," he said, adding that the Walloon government is aligning its rules with those of the Brussels-Capital Region.
Who will use it?
For the majority of places, it will be required by people over sixteen.
For mass events, hospitals and nursing homes, it will be required for those aged 12 years and older.
When does it start?
Any new changes will apply from 1 October.
Will there be a grace period?
Yes, but only while places get up to speed. Checks and fines will be held off until mid-October.
When does it stop?
The measure can only be imposed for a limited period and for a maximum of three months, with due attention paid to the evolution of the health situation.
Where will it be used?
- In the hospitality industry (but not terraces),
- Sports and fitness facilities (but not outdoor sports),
- Clubs and discos,
- Trade fairs,
- Conference venues,
- Cultural, recreational and festive halls (from 50 people),
- Events (from 50 people indoors/200 outdoors),
- Residential care establishments for vulnerable people.
Where will it certainly not be used?
The rules have stated that the use of the CST can never be required for essential activities, meaning it cannot limit access to:
- Public transport,
- Municipal administrations,
What happens to rulebreakers?
Besides judicial sanctions, the current legal framework provides that mayors of the Brussels region can impose an administrative closure on establishments that break the rules.
So Flanders and Wallonia won't use the pass?
At this point, how the rest of the regions will react is unknown. This guide will be updated once more is announced.
Update: This article has been updated following the announcement that Wallonia will expand the use of the CST from mid-October.
Maïthé Chini contributed to this article