The number of new infections in Belgium continues to drop but the share of the Omicron variant is rising rapidly. A series of new restrictions will take effect on Sunday 26 December.
From public events over Christmas markets to face masks, here is an overview of the measures decided by the Consultative Committee on 22 December.
As with the measures already in force, the new rules will apply until 28 January 2022, according to the Royal Decree published by Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden.
However, the Consultative Committee will meet again in the first week of the new year to evaluate the situation, meaning the rules could still change before then.
All indoor mass events, indoor events open to the public, indoor cultural and other performances, and indoor conferences are prohibited.
Outdoor public events – including Christmas markets and winter villages, cultural and other performances, and congresses – are permitted for an audience of no more than 100 people, provided that these rules are followed:
– a maximum of one visitor per 4 m²;
– the organiser must take appropriate measures to ensure social distancing between each group;
– the obligation to wear a face mask.
Markets and fairs
Markets, including fairs, flea markets and funfairs, are allowed to take place, but visitors are only allowed in pairs. Exceptions can be made for children up to 12 years old and people in need of assistance.
Groups of more than two people are allowed but only if they belong to the same household.
If more than 100 visitors may be present at the market at the same time, a one-way traffic plan must be drawn up, with separate entrances and exits.
Cultural, festive, recreational and event sectors
The interior spaces of establishments or venues pertaining to the cultural, festive, recreational or event sectors shall be closed to the public.
This includes the indoor areas of waterparks and the recreational parts of swimming pools, amusement parks, animal parks and gardens, indoor playgrounds, trampoline parks, bowling alleys, snooker and billiard halls, darts halls, paintball and laser game facilities, cinemas, escape rooms, casinos, arcades and betting shops.
The indoor areas of the following establishments or parts of establishments may remain open:
– libraries, game libraries and media libraries,
– functions and reception rooms, but only for weddings and funerals,
– wellness centres, including saunas, jacuzzis, steam rooms and hammams.
Shopping is only allowed alone or in pairs, not counting children up to 12 years old and people accompanying those in need of assistance. Groups of more than two people are only allowed if they belong to the same household.
Shops must take appropriate measures to ensure that social distancing rules can be respected. A maximum of one customer per 10 m² of floor space is allowed.
If the floorspace is smaller than 20 m², either two separate customers may enter (provided that a distance of 1.5 metres between each person is guaranteed), or a group from the same household.
If the floorspace is larger than 400 m², stores have to carry out entrance checks to make sure the number of people in the shop does not exceed the limit. They must also guarantee that the social distance is respected for the people waiting outside.
In shopping centres, the necessary options for hand hygiene for staff and visitors must also be provided at entry and exit points.
Both indoors and outdoors, the presence of spectators is prohibited during professional and non-professional sports competitions and sports training sessions.
However, minors and participants who need guidance may also be accompanied by two adults.
The teleworking obligation remains in place: and staff must work from home at least four days a week. On any given day, a maximum of 20% of staff may be present in the workplace at the same time.
Wearing a face mask remains mandatory in public spaces for anyone aged 6 or older.
At the request of the regions, the obligation to wear a mask in places of education is now included in the Royal Decree following a ruling by the Council of State pointed out the lack of legal basis for the obligation in schools.
Pupils from 6 years old must wear a mask in the indoor areas of schools and educational establishments and in the indoor areas of after-school care centres for primary school children.
The obligation does not apply to children from 6 years old who have not yet started primary education, but it does apply to children younger than 6 who have already started primary education.