Most of Belgium's remaining coronavirus measures are being relaxed from today, as the country "takes another big step towards freedom" at the start of October.
From face masks to the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) and closing hours in the Brussels-Capital Region, here’s an overview of the relaxations decided by the Consultative Committee on 17 September.
Like the measures already in force, the new rules will apply from 1 October until 31 October 2021, according to the Ministerial Decree published by Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden.
Local authorities, however, can still take stricter measures on their own territory should the epidemiological situation require it, Verlinden's cabinet stressed.
In Flanders and Wallonia, with the exception of children up to and including 12 years old, wearing a face mask will only be compulsory
– on public transport, in stations and in airports,
– in healthcare facilities (such as hospitals and residential care centres),
– in medical (like doctors) and non-medical contact professions (such as hairdressers and tattoo artists),
– at events, cultural and other performances, sports competitions and training sessions, and congresses with more than 500 people indoors and 750 people outdoors, without Covid Safe Ticket (CST).
Where social distancing measures cannot be respected, wearing a face mask remains strongly recommended for people from 13 years old.
In practice, this means that masks will no longer be required in the hospitality sector or in shops, both for clients and staff.
Brussels, however, has decided not to relax any of its measures yet, meaning that face masks will also remain mandatory in bars, restaurants and stores in the Capital-Region, for the time being.
Hospitality industry and nightlife sector
While the rules for bars and restaurants have been lifted in Flanders and Wallonia, Brussels is still sticking to its stricter rules for the hospitality sector.
This means that tables still have to be placed 1.5 metres apart, no more than eight clients are allowed per table, only seating places are allowed, and wearing a mask is still mandatory when moving around (such as to go to the toilet).
Discos and nightclubs, and the rest of the nightlife sector can reopen their doors in all of Belgium, provided that the CST is required from anyone wishing to enter.
Additionally, as the nightlife sector is also restarting in Brussels, the region is lifting its 1:00 AM closing time for the hospitality industry (as well as night shops), aligning the hours for the entire hospitality sector.
Culture, events, performances and congresses
Indoor events with fewer than 500 people and outdoor events with fewer than 750 people can take place without restrictions on face masks, social distancing and hospitality.
If more people are present, the protocols for the specific sectors must be complied with, and the competent municipal authority must give its permission for the event to take place.
For indoor events with more than 500 people and outdoor events with more than 750 people, the CST can be requested - meaning that face masks and social distancing will not be necessary.
A maximum of 500 people inside and 750 people outside are allowed at private gatherings.
However, these limits can be exceeded on the condition that the same modalities are applied as with larger events where no CST is required.
Air quality and ventilation
Bars, restaurants and other establishments in the hospitality sector (including dance halls), establishments in the sports sector (including fitness centres) and establishments in the events sector must still be fitted with a CO2 air quality meter.
The meter must be clearly visible to visitors, unless an alternative air quality measurement system is in place that displays the results of that measurement, publicly and in real-time.
A transition period of at least three months is provided.
The Passenger Locator Form (PLF) will only be offered electronically from 1 October, meaning that people will no longer be able to complete it on paper and sent it to the authorities by mail.
However, the possibility of printing out the received QR code after completing the electronic form remains, and people will be able to complete it up to 180 days in advance.
Additionally, travellers under 18 years old from non-EU/Schengen countries without a Covid-19 vaccination certificate can also enter Belgium if accompanied by a person who does hold a vaccination certificate.
However, these minors must still have a negative test or recovery certificate if they are aged 12 or over.
For all other travellers who are not nationals of EU/Schengen nations and whose main residence is in a third country not on the white list, nothing changes.
This means they can still only travel to Belgium for non-essential reasons if they hold a valid vaccination certificate. All reasons that are considered essential by the authorities can be found on this list.
As of today, some other non-Covid related changes are also coming into force in the country. What else is new in Belgium from 1 October can be found here.