What's on the Consultative Committee agenda today?

What's on the Consultative Committee agenda today?
Credit: Belga

This afternoon, the Consultative Committee will meet again to decide if and when Belgium can relax some restrictions and switch from 'red' to 'orange' on the recently-introduced coronavirus barometer.

The Consultative Committee will meet from 14:00 and will hold a press conference afterwards to announce its decisions, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

Following statements from both Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke over the course of the week, it is expected that the authorities will decide to quickly move the country into the barometer's next phase: orange.

In an advisory report given to the Government by Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon, and seen by Het Nieuwsblad, code orange is recommended from next week Friday, 18 February, if the decreasing trend in the figures continues.

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For the hospitality sector, these relaxations would entail that the limit of six clients per table would be lifted and people can get a drink at the bar again. Closing times would also be scrapped for bars and restaurants, as well as for night shops.

Another point on the agenda would be to allow nightlife to reopen – something the sector already announced would happen from 18 February, whether the Consultative Committee allowed it or not.

According to the rules in the barometer, the sector will be allowed to open again with a maximum capacity of 60% to 80%, but with the possibility of going up to 100% if the air quality reaches the standard of 900 ppm per 40 m3 on the CO2 meter. Face masks in the open air will no longer be mandatory, but only recommended.

In addition to the barometer, a few other topics are also expected to be discussed, following rising demands and calls from certain sectors, ministers and the population.

While employers' organisations have demanded an end to mandatory teleworking, Facon advised the Government to not scrap the obligation altogether, but instead relax it slightly to only three days of compulsory working from home, instead of four.

Scrapping the rule that requires people to shop alone or in pairs will also be on the table, as will the subject of face masks for children from 6 years old. Belgium's education and youth ministers called for a relaxation of the rule, but Vandenbroucke emphasised that there is "no scientific basis" for the opposition to the measure.

Code yellow in spring?

Lastly, the Consultative Committee is expected to look ahead to switching to 'code yellow' on the barometer – which will also see the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) scrapped. For Facon, this could be considered "in the first half of March."

While the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations per day will likely not have dropped below 65 (the threshold for code yellow) by mid-March, a "global analysis" of the situation could mean that "the Consultative Committee can consider a switch to yellow."

An in-depth overview of the agreed thresholds and all the proposed measures per phase of the coronavirus barometer can be found here.

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