During a digital meeting on Thursday, Belgium's Consultative Committee validated the cooperation agreement allowing the expansion of the Covid Safe Ticket, announced the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
This means that the document is now ready to pass through the Council of State and the Parliaments of the country's different Regions. The aim is still to implement the expansion of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) from 1 October.
On Tuesday evening, the federal government and the Regions already endorsed the terms of this cooperation agreement, and today (Thursday), it was validated without modification, the cabinet of Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told the Belga news agency.
So, what does the agreement say?
This agreement means that the CST will be in force until 31 October, not 30 September.
Additionally, from 1 October, the Regions will be able to use the pass as they see fit, and for a longer period.
From 1 to 31 October, the CST can be used for events with at least 500 indoor and 750 outdoor visitors (currently 200 indoor and 400 outdoor). On the other hand, it will be compulsory for events with 3,000 visitors indoors and 5,000 outdoors (always with a maximum of 75,000).
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From October, the Regions will also be able to adopt a decree or ordinance to introduce the CST from the age of 16 in the hospitality industry, nightclubs and discos, sports and fitness clubs, trade fairs and congresses, and structures in the cultural, festive and recreational sectors.
The CST may also be required for people from 12 years old who wish to visit a person in a hospital or residential care centre. The Regions will now also be able to adapt the thresholds concerning the number of people present to use the Covid Safe Ticket.
From 1 November (and until 30 June 2022) the CST will be able to be reintroduced across Belgium for (shorter) periods, as required by the epidemiological situation.
The decision to reinstate the pass can be taken by the Regions for their own territory (after evaluation by the Risk Assessment Group) or by the federal government for the whole country, provided that the "pandemic law" passed last July is activated.
Brussels starts preparing
In the meantime, the Brussels government is working on an extension of the CST for the Capital Region, where the vaccination rate is lower than in Flanders and Wallonia, announced Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort in a press release.
On Thursday afternoon, he stated that Brussels already started preparing the implementing ordinance to complete the necessary legal framework for the CST's implementation.
The precise areas of application - such as in which sectors, under what conditions and for how long - will be finalised when the preliminary draft ordinance is approved at first reading and will depend on the epidemiological situation and vaccination coverage in the Brussels-Capital Region at that time.
Consultations with the various sectors that may be affected, such as the hospitality industry, will also be continued.
The Brussels government pointed out that the CST "serves to control the health situation and is intended to protect public health in various situations where people are in close proximity to each other in the same space."
It should also help reduce the restrictions associated with the other precautionary measures and avoid worsening the infection rates. "This would hinder the freedoms of citizens and be detrimental to the economy. Such an exceptional measure can only be imposed as long as the health situation requires it."