Belgium in Brief: Everything Is Allowed, Except When It Is Not
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Belgium in Brief: Everything Is Allowed, Except When It Is Not

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It’s official, Belgium will be sticking to the deconfinement timeline set out, and moving into Phase 3 as of Monday.

Among the many changed measures – full list here –  it has been confirmed that cafes, bars and restaurants may reopen, with a distance of 1.5 m between tables, and a maximum of 10 people per table. Social circles can also expand beyond the current 4 people, but more on that below.

“The indicators are encouraging, as we can see in the daily reports of the figures,” said Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès. “To be honest, it’s looking better than we and the experts expected at the moment. This is the result of the collective effort of all of us,” she added.

“At the beginning, we started by banning everything, there was a kind of lockdown. Nothing was allowed except for some activities. From 8 June, we will be able to reason differently. Everything will be allowed, except the activities that are specifically forbidden,” Wilmès said.

For now, however, we cover reactions to the latest deconfinement, recap what you need to know in the coming weeks and get you the latest figures.

With so much information, and so little time to catch up before it potentially changes again, here are some of the top stories from around the country to get you up to speed.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Phase 3 of deconfinement announced – reactions

Various sectors of the economy have been reacting to the announcement by the national security council of a wide range of measures to relax the lockdown in place since March.

The horeca sector (hotel-restaurant-cafe), the travel industry, and more have spoken out in the face of the new measures. Read more.

Wedding planners have also spoken out against the latest round of lockdown relaxations, saying their lack of clarity is a new blow to business which comes just ahead of the busy summer period. Read more.

2. Social circles expand to 10 people per week

From Monday 8 June, everyone will be allowed to expand their social bubble, and be allowed to meet 10 others per week.

From Monday, when Phase 3 of Belgium’s exit plan out of lockdown starts, each person will be allowed to see a maximum of 10 other people per week. These people do not have to be the same ones every time, Wilmès stressed on Wednesday.

Activities will be allowed to take place again in groups of 10, children included. This applies to all situations, both indoors and outdoors, including in your own home, in restaurants or the park. Read more.

3. 21 hospital admissions, 89 discharged in Belgium

82 additional people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium in the last 24 hours, according to figures by the Federal Public Health Service on Thursday.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 58,767. The total reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died from the consequences of the virus.

50 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 25 live in Wallonia, and 7 live in Brussels. Read more.

4. Belgium’s 6 ‘Golden Rules’ of deconfinement

With the news that Belgium will go ahead with the next phase of its plan to ease lockdown measures, Wilmès has set out 6 best practices for how the country will proceed in the coming months.

Dubbed the “golden rules” by Wilmès, they double down on some pre-existing rules, adapt some under new social measures. With that in mind, here they are.

5. Every resident will receive face mask by next week, PM says

All residents in Belgium will soon receive a fabric face mask, Wilmès said on Thursday. The distribution to residents will begin from the start of next week, she added, with Justice and Deputy Prime Minister Koen Geens confirming the news in a separate radio appearance.

The masks will be distributed to the public via pharmacists, according to Geens. Read more.

6. Antwerp abandons all cash payments for parking

The city of Antwerp has abolished the use of all forms of cash in paying for a parking place or paying off a parking fine.

From now on, paying for a parking space can only be done by SMS, or via an app. The machine will no longer print out a ticket to be placed behind your windscreen.

Similarly, if you are issued a parking fine, it will no longer be found under the windscreen wiper, but instead will arrive later at home in the mail. Read more.

7. Cities should ‘act fast’ to make lockdown biking boom permanent

City officials must move fast if they wish to seize the cycling boost brought on by the coronavirus pandemic to bring about permanent changes to urban mobility.

In a webinar held on World Cycling Day, bike advocates and urban mobility officials from across Europe agreed that the coronavirus pandemic offered a unique chance to rethink urban space and mobility. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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