New measures before Christmas: What we know

New measures before Christmas: What we know
Credit: Belga/Pxhere

Belgium's Consultative Committee will meet earlier than initially planned to evaluate the coronavirus figures and assess the epidemiological situation before Christmas.

While the meeting was initially brought forward to Friday because several members of the French-speaking liberal MR party wanted to discuss possible relaxations for the Christmas period, immediate relaxations are not an option with the current figures, according to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

So, here's what we do know so far.

Will rules change for Christmas?

While the meeting was initially moved forward because the size of people’s social bubbles and the closure of hairdressers was a topic on the agenda before Christmas, relaxations will not be announced on Friday, according to De Croo.

Asked by VTM News if any extra restrictions would be announced for the holiday period, De Croo stated that he would not comment on decisions that will be made on Friday.

On Tuesday morning, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that the existing measures should not only be enforced more strictly, but that some new rules could also be on the table "if necessary," without elaborating on what those would be.

Will borders close?

No. While the authorities are still discouraging taking trips abroad, closing Belgium's borders is not on the agenda for the time being, according to De Croo.

However, faced with citizens from neighbouring countries who will cross the border to shop in Belgium as non-essential shops are closed in their own countries, such as the Netherlands or Germany, "filtering controls" could be set up.

"In that case, we would make it clear that those who do not have to come to our country for professional reasons have no business coming here," De Croo said.

The Netherlands, as well as Germany, are currently also strongly advising against travelling abroad.

Will the tripled fines also apply to Christmas parties?

No. While Belgium will triple its fines for people attending lockdown parties (from €250 now to €750), the public prosecutors emphasised that the fines for small family gatherings such as for Christmas would remain at €250.

“Those gatherings are still forbidden, of course, but the raised fines will not be targeting them," they said, adding that the raised fines would apply to organised illegal parties that blatantly violate the measures, such as the one that took place in Laeken last weekend, which even had a shuttle bus and a professional music installation.

(When) will there be relaxations?

At the previous Consultative Committee, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenrboucke announced that relaxations will not be considered before Belgium reaches the thresholds of 800 new infections and 75 hospital admissions per day.

According to the latest figures, the country still registered a daily average of over 2,000 new Covid-19 infections and over 180 hospitalisations.

At the current rate, the set thresholds for relaxations will not be reached before March, according to recent predictions. On top of that, the number of new infections increased for the third day in a row on Tuesday.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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