Last week, the Consultative Committee set out the coronavirus barometer which allows some of the current measures to be relaxed from today. From closing hours at public and private events to indoor activities, here is an overview of the changes.
In principle, the rules will apply until 27 April 2022, but the epidemiological conditions will be closely monitored and the measures will be evaluated at the next Consultative Committee, according to the Royal Decree published by Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden.
Wearing a face mask remains mandatory in public areas, the obligation to telework at least four days a week still applies, and shopping can only be done with a maximum of two people.
The coronavirus barometer
Today, the coronavirus barometer finally enters into force and Belgium will immediately start in 'code red', which indicates that there is a high risk of overloading the healthcare system.
The epidemiological thresholds for activating this highest alert phase do not focus on the country's soaring infection figures but are set at a total of 500 Covid-19 patients in intensive care and over 150 new hospital admissions per day.
Importantly, the barometer is "not an autopilot," the authorities stressed. This means that the Consultative Committee will always make the final decision about switching to a different colour.
The tool was intended to remain in force until the end of June, but it can also be withdrawn earlier if the situation allows it, said Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. A more in-depth explanation of all phases of Belgium's barometer can be found here.
Cultural, festive, sports, recreational and events sector
With the exception of nightclubs and dance halls, all indoor spaces belonging to the cultural, festive, sporting, recreational and events sectors may be opened to the public.
In practice, this means that sub-tropical swimming pools (water parks) and 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, escape rooms, casinos, gaming halls and betting shops can reopen.
Private and public events
The rules for events depend on whether or not they are dynamic (standing, interactive) or non-dynamic (seated).
Public events such as theatre performances and football matches are allowed indoors and outdoors, with the exception of "indoor dynamic events," such as dance parties.
For public events, a valid Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is required from 50 participants indoors and 100 outdoors. If the event takes place outside with more than 1,000 people, compartmentalisation must be provided.
If an event takes place with more than 200 people, the crowd must be limited to 70% of the total capacity of the place where the event takes place. However, if the indoor air quality target can be met during the event, this does not apply.
These same capacity rules also apply to cinemas and congresses. Marriages and funerals are allowed just as they are now.
The closing hour is being moved one hour later, meaning bars and restaurants are allowed to remain open until midnight from today. The same applies to night shops.
Indoors, there is a limit of six people at a table, and having a drink at the bar remains prohibited. Café sports (like darts) and games of chance in bars are also allowed again.
The CST remains obligatory to gain access to the indoor areas of hospitality establishments, as well as from 100 people outside.
Leisure activities (such as youth activities, club activities and non-professional sports) are permitted in groups of 80 people indoors, and up to 200 people outside.
People must remain in the same group and may not be put together with other groups. At camps, overnight stays are allowed again.
Requiring a CST is possible, but not mandatory from 50 people.
Air quality meters
Establishments belonging to the sports sector (including fitness centres), cinemas and theatres, food and drink establishments and event halls for at least 50 people are required to have an air quality meter (CO2) in the indoor areas accessible to the public.
The target value for indoor air quality is a flow rate of at least 40 m³/hour per person of ventilation and/or air purification or a maximum CO2 concentration of 900 ppm (parts per million).
The indoor air quality limit is a flow rate of 25 m³/hour per person for ventilation and/or air purification or a CO2 concentration of 1200 ppm.
The operator should have an action plan in place in case the target value is not met. Additionally, the operator is recommended to provide an approved air purification system in case the limit value is exceeded.