For the third time in three weeks, the Consultative Committee introduced new measures in response to a worsening coronavirus situation in Belgium.
These new measures were announced on Friday 3 December during the Consultative Committee press conference, when Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned that the autumn wave of infections was much more severe than anticipated and that adjustments are needed to deal with the “untenable situation.”
Most of the rules came into force from Saturday, while some were implemented today (Monday 6 December).
During the past weekend, indoor events could still be organised for a seated audience of no more than 4,000 attendees; however, from Monday, this maximum number has been reduced to 200 people (excluding employees and organisers).
The rules for outdoor public events do not change but events organised in tents are also seen as indoor activities, except when at least two sides are open.
Additionally, all attendees must be seated, wear a face mask, and for events with 50 or more people a valid Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is required.
Face masks at school
Starting on Saturday, the face mask obligation was extended to children starting from the age of six in all places where wearing a face mask was compulsory, including on public transport and in shops.
From Monday, this also means that face masks in the classroom will become mandatory from the first grade of primary school until the Christmas holidays, which have also been brought forward by a week.
The education partners decided on Friday that the latest start date for the new measures would be Wednesday 8 December, allowing a two-day window for schools to implement the measures. As of Wednesday, pupils not wearing face masks in Catholic schools will not be allowed in.
According to Katholiek Onderwijs Vlaanderen, the umbrella organisation for education in Flanders, it has been called in to support the introduction of this rule, as there is large-spread resistance and opposition to it. On Sunday, the organisation sent out a newsletter with advice to all boards.
In Wallonia, Education Minister Caroline Désir said the face mask obligation must be followed but that the mas can be taken off for a “break time,” including during meals and during physical education classes, while short breaks can be taken when sitting in class if the ventilation instructions are strictly observed.
Other new measures in schools include CO2 meters becoming compulsory in every classroom. Changes have also been made to the quarantining rules: from two contaminations or more, a class must go into quarantine (the rule had recently been changed from four to three contaminations).
Meanwhile, a hybrid form of education will once again be implemented in secondary education as a maximum of 50% of pupils can be taught in person at once. Exams, however, can be conducted in person entirely.
Refreshing other measures
Several other measures already came into force on Saturday, or have remained the same: bars, restaurants and cafes can still remain open until 11:00 PM and people can still share a table with a maximum of six people (unless they are part of a larger household).
Museums and cinemas can remain open but in cinemas, a maximum limit of 200 people per room applies and establishments must ensure that a social distance of 1.5 metres is maintained between different groups.
Working from home remains mandatory for four days a week. Indoor sports activities can continue but without an audience present.
Finally, social bubbles will not be reintroduced, but people are strongly recommended to limit their contacts as much as possible.