Belgian PM releases explainer on new social contact rules

Belgian PM releases explainer on new social contact rules
© Belga

Belgium's prime minister has taken to Twitter to explain the country's new social restrictions to the fight the coronavirus, which have caused widespread confusion since their introduction at the start of the week.

The National Security Council on Monday decided to shrink each household's social bubble to five fixed people, drastically scaling back past relaxations which allowed each person to see 15 different people each week.

But an additional provision to the rules which allows group activities with up to ten people as well as the lack of clarity regarding telework left many residents wondering how to navigate the new regulations.

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In a message coinciding with the entry into force of the new rules, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès tweeted an explainer of the new rules on Wednesday.

"Important changes from this Wednesday. We must adjust our social contacts for the next four weeks," she wrote, sharing some examples to help residents better understand situations and encounters which the new rules allow.

The short video, posted in Dutch and French, explains that close social contacts are allowed only with the five people belonging to an entire household's fixed social bubble.

Sharing a meal, having a barbecue, going for a drink or "being close to one another" are some of the activities listed as allowed for the 5-person social bubbles.

Groups of up to ten people can still meet outings such as going to a museum or going for a walk or a bike ride provided that social distancing is respected, with the use of face masks encouraged as additional protection.

While telework has only made mandatory in Antwerp, where authorities have also imposed a late-night curfew to beat back surging infection rates, working from home is "strongly recommended" in the rest of Belgium.

Employees who must go to the workplace are urged to keep their distances with their colleagues.

The video also reminds viewers that shopping must now be done alone, except for people requiring assistance — just like during the full-out lockdown— and that each customer can stay inside a shop for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Wilmès' explainer also coincides with a wider campaign by Belgium's Crisis Centre to get residents to stick to new rules, which aim to bring infection rates down sufficiently in order to avoid a new all-out lockdown.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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