Just over a week after the previous meeting, Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet again this morning to take stricter measures to stop the fourth wave, as the previous ones were not sufficient.
The Committee will meet digitally from 8:00 AM and will be followed by a press conference, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told The Brussels Times.
“We are going to have to look at a package of measures,” De Croo stated in Parliament on Thursday afternoon. “However, if we take measures, they must be followed. They have no effect if they are not respected.”
As four days of mandatory teleworking and the broad face mask obligation announced last week are seemingly not having any effect on the rapidly rising infection figures, virologist Marc Van Ranst predicted that Belgium could enter a “lockdown light” to stop the rise.
While a strict lockdown – like the one in March 2020 – is not on the table, an early closure of the hospitality industry and restrictions on the number of people per table seem very possible, he said.
This was also recommended by the entire GEMS expert group in a report to the Federal Government, alongside the closure of nightclubs and a ban on private parties and indoor events where the crowd is not seated for a “cooling-off period” of three to four weeks.
Earlier on Thursday, Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden also stated that it would be better for nightclubs and discos – which are now facing very difficult measures – to get some clarity. “We are not helping them by leaving them in ambiguity for too long.”
The Neutral Syndicate for the Self-Employed (NSZ), however, called on the Consultative Committee not to close any sectors again, as it would result in “an economic bloodbath” and instead urged them to “come up with a solid plan to tackle the effective hotbeds and to convince the non-vaccinated.”
Extra measures in the education sector and for youth activities are on the table too, as experts are proposing to scrap all activities outside the school and to close classrooms from three (instead of four) confirmed infections.
While the experts reportedly want to make sure that education can continue to take place physically – instead of digitally – as much as possible, they also urged the regional Ministers for Education and Youth to take extra measures.
Another point on the agenda will be the obligation to shop alone again, and to limit social contacts as much as possible, even if everyone is fully vaccinated.
A stricter testing policy for vaccinated people is also expected to be discussed: instead of being tested on days 1 and 7 after the contact, they would only be tested on day 5.
However, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told VTM News that “we should be stricter on ourselves, even without new rules.”
“Avoid too much contact, especially when indoors. I am hoping for good Christmas and end-of-year celebrations,” he said. “But let us be strict now. And even then, I cannot make any promises. We must do what is necessary right now.”