Just over one week after its last meeting, Belgium’s Consultative Committee on Friday once again announced a set of new measures to curb the rising number of coronavirus infections, coming into force on Saturday at 11:00 AM.
On Monday 22 November, Belgium recorded the highest figure across all coronavirus waves in Belgium. in one day since the start of the pandemic, and the effects of this are weighing on the capacity of hospitals across the country.
“Unfortunately, the much more infectious Delta variant is making our lives extremely difficult,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference following the Consultative Committee on Friday, during which he announced a “package of strict measures,” for a period of three weeks.
Private meetings and close contacts
Private meetings can only be organised inside if they take place in the context of a wedding or funeral, for sports activities, or in someone’s home or in small tourist accommodations. Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden announced that “friends can still go to a tourist accommodation, but with a maximum of 15.”
The same rules apply as in the hospitality industry for indoor events with 50 people and 100 people outdoors, such as private gatherings such as funerals and weddings with private catering services. Here, a Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will have to be shown by all guests. “The organiser must inform attendees of this in advance,” a press release from Verlinden stated.
This will not be the case for gatherings that take place at home without professional catering services.
Bars, cafés and restaurants
Starting from Saturday morning, hospitality sector businesses will have to close their doors from 11:00 PM and can re-open at 5:00 AM, except if they are hosting private gatherings in connection with a funeral or wedding.
Meals and drinks cannot be offered for collection and delivery between these closing times, while night shops are also closed to the public between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM.
Meanwhile, a maximum of six people can sit together at one table when going out to eat or drink, however, children up to 12 years of age are excluded from this. A household can share a table, regardless of its size. Each person must remain seated at their own table or at the bar.
Nightclubs and events
All nightclubs, discos and dance halls have to close their doors again, not even two months after they were able to re-open. “It is a very difficult message,” De Croo said, adding that there will also be a support package for these establishments.
The presence of the public is prohibited during indoor professional and non-professional sports competitions. However, any participant up to and including 17 years of age may be accompanied by two adult persons.
From Monday, events, indoor activities, such as cultural and other performances, sports training and congresses, can only take place indoors if the audience – a maximum of 50 people (employees and organisers not included) – is seated.
Events, including Christmas markets and winter villages, cultural and other performances, sports competitions and training sessions, and conferences can be organised outdoors with a seated or standing audience of up to 100 people (not including staff and organisers).
“The organiser must take appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the rules on social distancing, in particular maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres between each group.”
These rules do not apply if access is only possible with a Covid Safe Ticket. The Brussels Christmas market can still take place with more people, according to Brussels mayor Philippe Close’s spokesperson, as the use of the CST was one of the measures announced for the market to take place.
Telework, tests and face masks
The period during which it is mandatory to work from home for four days per week has been extended until 19 December 2021, one week longer than was announced during the previous Consultative Committee.
Face masks remain mandatory for everyone starting from 10 years old, he stressed. “This also concerns vaccinated people.”
Belgium will also open walk-in testing centres, where people are free to go and get tested. Additionally, the booster shots will also be administered more quickly.
Duration of new rules
All measures have been included in the Royal Decree and will enter into force from Saturday 27 November 2021, at 11:00 AM, with the exception of those related to events and sporting competitions, which will enter into force on Monday 29 November 2021, at 7:00 AM.
The new rules will apply until 28 January 2022. However, the epidemiological conditions will be closely monitored and the Consultative Committee will make a new assessment in early January, according to Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden’s cabinet.