18 May: The 'Phase 2' cheat sheet

18 May: The 'Phase 2' cheat sheet
Credit: Jules Johnston

Belgium will take the next step out of the lockdown from Monday 18 May, following the latest meeting of the National Security Council.

Across the country, several measures will be relaxed as the country moves into Phase 2 of the lockdown plan. In light of the change – and the often confusing information – here is a cheat sheet for the rules you should be following if you set out into the world, what has opened, and what has changed.

Back to school: From Monday, certain children will go back to school. In April, the National Security Council decided that in primary schools, the first, second and last grades could go back to school. For secondary schools, the last grades will also restart.

Lose the Locks: Hairdressers are allowed to receive clients again, but only by appointment. The hairdressers, as well as the clients, have to wear face masks or mouth-nose protection. The social distance measures have to be respected as much as possible, especially between clients. Others, like tattoo artists and beauty centres, can also reopen their doors.

Get Cultured: Visits to museums and other cultural attractions, such as historical buildings are allowed, but only if the institution sets up a ticket system online and takes appropriate measures regarding social distancing.

Be an animal: Going to the zoo will also be allowed, but only if they have an online ticket system.

Weddings and funerals gain little ground: Up to 30 people will be allowed to attend the ceremonies if a safe social distance can be guaranteed. Organising a reception of a party afterwards is still not allowed, which is proving to be difficult for all.

Going to market: Smaller markets in the open air, up to a maximum of 50 stalls, can resume, with approval of the relevant municipality. A circulation plan has to be drawn up, and vendors and other staff have to wear masks. Customers are strongly advised to do the same.

Staying in shape: Sports clubs can start training, but only in the open air. A coach has to be present and a maximum of 20 people can take part. Cafeterias remain closed.

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The Rules from the 11 May

As of 11 May, shops throughout Belgium were allowed to reopen again, as the country begins to relax certain aspects of the current lockdown. Here are the rules that went into place then (and still stand now): 

Keep distant: Access to shops will be limited to a maximum of one customer per 10m² of retail space. Certain stores have marked out areas to line up while following rules, so stick to that.

Keep safe: A safe working environment must be guaranteed for workers, and for shoppers. 

Keep to time limits: Customers are allowed to stay in a store for a maximum of 30 minutes per store.

Location & Priority: Belgian PM Sophie Wilmès called for only shopping in your own neighbourhood. “If it is crowded in a shop, go back home. Priority should be given to care workers, the elderly and the less mobile.”

Masks: The Belgian public transport companies De Lijn, STIB and SNCB have strictly enforced the wearing of face masks from 4 May at risk of a fine. Shops continue to advise the wearing of masks, while Etterbeek, Saint-Josse and Woluwe shopping streets have made the wearing mandatory.

No Touching: Customers are advised not to touch something they do not intend to buy, according to advice posted on Brussels shopping streets

Recycle: Masks are not recyclable, and should be put in with standard waste.

Shop alone: Unless you have to accompany a child, or someone who requires assistance, you should be shopping alone. Big items – like a new bathroom, a couch or a car – require an appointment. 

Shopping Centres: On top of the rules, the reopening of shopping centres has its own special rules. See them here.

These measures – as well as any involving increased social distancing, and the 4 person expansion of social circles, rely upon the people of Belgium to follow the rules. The government counts on people’s sense of responsibility and common sense, as it will become increasingly difficult for the police to check if people are respecting the measures, the more they will be relaxed, Wilmès said during the launch of the measures. 

What's Next? 

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.”

Jules Johnston

The Brussels Times

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