For the third time in two weeks, Belgium is changing its quarantine rules for children younger than 12 years old after an infection in the household: children will always have to quarantine, unless they recently had the virus themselves.
Up until now, children were linked to the vaccination status of the adult(s) they were living with at the moment, and different rules applied to the child depending on whether the adult was (fully) vaccinated or not.
“However, that rule caused great confusion and was very difficult to implement in the field,” announced the Sciensano national health institute in a press release on Sunday evening.
“Therefore, the Interministerial Conference (IMC) together with the Ministers of Education decided to simplify the regulation again, considering all children as unvaccinated high-risk contacts in this case.”
In practice, this means that in case of an infection in the household, children under 12 must quarantine for 10 days. However, they can leave the house after day 7 if they take a negative self-test every day until day 10, and always wear a face mask in indoor areas (from 6 years old).
If the child develops symptoms of an infection themselves, a test must be taken by a healthcare professional (rapid antigen or PCR test).
The only exception to the rule is when the child was infected with the coronavirus in the past five months. In that case, they do not have to quarantine. However, they must still take extra precautions, such as “strictly wearing a face mask in indoor areas (for children over 6 years old) and limiting contacts, especially with risk groups.”
Additionally, Sciensano pointed out that the rules will apply from Monday (today), but the technical aspects for the call centres will only be in place from 20 January – which “will therefore potentially lead to conflicting messages for parents in the coming days, which we deeply regret.”
“We also stress again that Sciensano only publishes the decisions of the IMC/the Risk Management Group (RMG) on its website, and is not responsible for the decisions themselves,” the institute stressed.
An overview of all quarantine rules can be found here.