Experts’ note reveals 3 stages for lifting coronavirus lockdown
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    Experts’ note reveals 3 stages for lifting coronavirus lockdown

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    A second version of the experts’ note on gradually lifting the lockdown proposes it be done in three phases all dependent on a number of conditions.

    The version, obtained by the Dutch and Francophone press, follows a draft report leaked to Le Soir on Wednesday.

    The new note by the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES) comes ahead of a meeting of the National Security Council, in which government officials are set to announce the steps to ease Belgium out of the coronavirus lockdown.

    The GEES sets out three key deconfinement phases which they say should only be activated if a number of conditions is met: that hospital admissions do not rise above 200 per day, that Belgium reaches a daily testing capacity of 25,000 tests per day and that people continue to “drastically reduce” contacts with each other.

    The note also says that the use of face masks should be mandatory in public for all residents above the age of 12, according to Le Soir.

    Phase 1: 4 May

    Shops: garages, bicycle shops, real estate offices allowed to open but only receive customers by appointment. Smaller paint, tile, light and kitchen stores are allowed to reopen.

    Outdoor activities: Parks and squares can reopen but playgrounds must remain shut. Outdoor sports which require no physical contact will be allowed again, like tennis, fishing, golf, petanque. Sports can be done with people living in the same household or two friends, always the same.

    Sports clubs: Sports clubs can reopen provided they enforce appropriate social-distancing measures and that training is done in the presence of a coach.

    Work: Non-essential sectors such as construction or manufacturing can resume activities if they respect with health regulations and social-distancing guidelines. The GEES said that where teleworking is possible, it remains mandatory.

    Phase 2: 18 May

    Shops: A majority of shops and businesses, including hairdressers, would be allowed to reopen, but face masks must be worn at all times. Restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres and dancing venues must remain closed.

    School: Gradual restart of activities for some school grades and with classes of no more than 10 students. A proposal by the Flemish government to reopen on 15 may for only three schools grades is set to be discussed on Friday.

    Museums: Visits to the museum will be possible provided the number of visitors is limited and that social-distancing measures are respected.

    Social gatherings: Guidelines on whether to relax the strict rule under which a wedding or a funeral may take place will be studied, but indoor gatherings with over 50 participants will remain banned during this phase.

    Phase 3: 8 June

    The final phase could see the reopening of restaurants, bars and cafés.

    The GEES said that additional phases of deconfinement could still be created, depending on how the situation evolved.

    The expert group also said that a decision regarding whether summer camps could go forward would be taken before the end of May.

    In the note, the GEES said that it remained necessary to study the evolution of the health situation in Belgium daily, and that it could not be ruled out that lockdowns or new measures be rolled out if the situation worsened.

    In an address in parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès also said that there were no guarantees that the phase-out would not be reversed if the situation required it.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times