From Sunday 10 May, people will be allowed to receive up to four guests in their homes, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced following the National Security Council on Wednesday.
However, it is not as simple as it may seem at first. Under the new measures, these four guests will always have to be the same ones, and will not be allowed to see anyone else aside from the rest of the group. The circle must remain closed.
"We had to open the door a little bit, but it will always be too little," said virologist Marc Van Ranst on VRT News. "A further relaxation for social contacts will certainly not happen before 18 May," he added.
In practice, this means that if you choose to visit your parents, they also have to choose you, according to Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon. "Otherwise, the entire Belgian population will have been in contact with each other in no time at all," he told VTM News.
"We are going to have to be creative to decide who these four people will be. A contract will be drawn up, as it were: you can come and visit us, but only us," epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme told Het Laatste Nieuws. "That requires a lot of discipline, the government gives a bit of responsibility back into the hands of the general public," he added.
"You cannot yet hold or see everyone you love. But we are going to keep a close eye on this, and we are going to take into account this fundamental need that we all have," Wilmès said.
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It is almost impossible to check whether people keep to the four people to visit, according to Federal Minister for Economy and Work Nathalie Muylle. "We are counting on everyone’s common sense and sense of responsibility,” she told VRT. "We hope that people will continue their efforts over the next few weeks,” she added.
Additionally, there is no distance limit on how far the journey can be for such a visit. "We definitely consider visiting one of your loved ones as an essential journey,” said Wilmès.
Even with the new measures, "the social distance of 1.5 metres must also be kept at all times, with these visitors in your home as well," said Wilmès. "If you have a terrace or a garden, it is preferable to see each other there," she added.
No visitors are allowed if one of the visitors or family members (or people living under the same roof) is sick, and that special attention should be paid to older or vulnerable people.
"Meeting four people is the maximum, and we are a little scared to do it," said Van Ranst. "Over the past weeks and months, our population has reacted with a great deal of responsibility to the coronavirus measures and as a result, the curve has gone down. This is to everyone's credit, and it makes us dare to take this step," he added.
Maïthé Chini and Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times