Belgium will go ahead with the next phase of its exit plan out of the lockdown from 18 May as planned, announced Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès during a press conference on Wednesday.
Following a meeting with Belgium’s National Security Council, that started at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, Wilmès announced the country’s next stage, Phase 2, in its deconfinement strategy.
"We, and the experts of the Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES), monitor the situation day after day. We continue to ask you to follow the safety measures, which you probably already know by heart," Wilmès said.
Phase 2: 18 May
Telework, as much as possible, remains the norm.
As expected, schools will reopen as planned, but with wide safety measures in place. "Everything has been discussed with professionals," Wilmès said, adding that other countries are also reopening their schools in this period.
Museums and cultural attractions, such as historical buildings, can reopen their doors, if they set up a ticket system online and take appropriate measures.
Libraries can remain open, under the same conditions.
Several professions that require close contact with the clients, such as hairdressers, will also be allowed to restart, by appointment only. Both the hairdressers and the clients must wear masks or mouth-nose protection, and respect the social distance as much as possible.
Smaller markets in the open air, up to a maximum of 50 stalls, will also be allowed to reopen with approval of the municipality in which it takes place. The social distance measures must be followed as much as possible, and a circulation plan to be drawn up. Vendors and other staff will have to wear face masks, and customers are strongly advised to do the same.
Zoos and recreation parks can reopen, if they have an online ticket system. However, cafeterias, restaurants and playgrounds in those parks must remain closed.
For weddings and funerals, a maximum of 30 people will be allowed to attend. However, all guests must be able to keep their distance from each other, and may only attend the ceremony, and not a reception or party afterwards.
Sports clubs may reopen, and training sessions can resume in the open air, with a coach present and a maximum of 20 people. The clubs must take the appropriate measures and cafeterias have to remain closed.
The next phase in the exit plan will start on 8 June, at the earliest. Further relaxation of the measures regarding sports competitions, tourism (including day trips within Belgium), the reopening of the hospitality sector and more social contact will be discussed then.
All cultural, sporting and other events remain prohibited until at least 30 June. "Before the summer, there will likely not be a return to normal life," Wilmès said
"As the measures are being relaxed further, we understand that some things confuse some people. If you have the smallest doubt, please consult the Frequently Asked Questions page on the website of the Crisis Centre. If you cannot find your answer there, keep the bigger picture of fighting the virus in mind," Wilmès said. "And as always, take care of yourself, take care of each other," she added.
Maïthé Chini & Ava Strowel
The Brussels Times