Belgium's coronavirus measures will not be relaxed when the next Consultative Committee meeting will take place on 22 December, according to Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.
Despite a number of ministers calling for relaxations if the figures have decreased just before the end-of-year festivities, Vandenbroucke said in the Chamber on Friday that this would not be happening.
"Those who think that the next Consultative Committee will be about easing restrictions are wrong," he said, adding that he wants to discuss the epidemiological situation and the new Omicron variant.
A new version of the coronavirus barometer could also be on the table, as Vandenbroucke asked the Corona Commissariat to prepare a proposal by the next Committee meeting.
Additionally, the possibility to shorten the interval between the second and booster doses of vaccines is also being considered, as is making vaccination mandatory.
"So, that will be a heavy agenda. We will not have much time to discuss relaxations," said Vandenbroucke.
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His statements go directly against comments made by Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, who was initially the one to propose a ban on all indoor events but now wants to see the restriction lifted again, especially for the cultural sector.
As it stands, indoor events can only take place with fewer than 200 attendees. Everyone must be seated and wear a face mask, and as soon as more than 50 people are present, a valid Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is also required.
"Last week, I proposed a short but firm measure in the face of the rising infections. My approach for the next Consultative Committee will be that this short period is over and the recreational sector can reopen," he told the Belga News Agency.
The president of the Flemish liberal Open VLD party Egbert Lachaert stated that he would be in favour of abolishing the 11:00 PM closing hour for bars and restaurants by New Year.
Begrijpelijke en terechte vraag. Als thuis vieren mag, zou het bizar zijn in een professionele omgeving alles dicht te doen om 23u. Enkel voorbehoud: omicron of stijgende cijfers.Horeca Vlaanderen wil snel duidelijkheid over sluitingsuur kerst & nieuw. https://t.co/XgaWi5IwAa — Egbert Lachaert (@egbertlachaert) December 10, 2021
"If celebrating at home is allowed, it would be bizarre to close everything at 11:00 PM in a professional environment," he tweeted. "Only exception: Omicron or rising figures."
During a press conference about federal support measures on Friday, however, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo argued for "stability" at the next Consultative Committee, "which serves to look at the evolution, which is rather positive."
"The set of measures now is balanced and has impact," he said, adding that keeping the in hospitals under control is a priority.
"I would like to ask not to immediately start the discussion about relaxing the rules," De Croo said in VTM News on Friday evening. "The measures were introduced only a week ago."
Vandenbroucke agreed and advocates the introduction of a management strategy. "This cascade of decisions leads to more confusion than anything else. The measures of the past month have had an impact, but people are asking for more predictability."
The measures currently in force in Belgium can be found here.