Expand outdoor bubble to eight people, Deputy Prime Minister says

Expand outdoor bubble to eight people, Deputy Prime Minister says
Credit: Belga

A proposal to expand the outdoor social bubble of four to eight people by Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter and Green party leader Meyrem Almaci could get the government's support at Friday's Consultative Committee.

The Green MPs highlighted that seeing other people outside could be an enormous boost for people’s mental wellbeing.

“If relaxations are possible, we want the bubble of four to be expanded to eight,” De Sutter and Almaci said on Monday.

Studies have found a low proportion (less than 10%) of global coronavirus infections occurred outdoors compared to indoors, where it is 18.7 times more likely to be passed on.

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De Sutter and Almaci also said relaxing this measure could help also prevent people, especially youngsters, from violating the current measures in more unsafe ways.

“For many young people, this period has been a very dark one, literally and figuratively speaking, during which they only sporadically had contact with their peers, and that was mainly during classes,” De Sutter said yesterday.

“If we don’t give them any sort of perspective in the coming weeks and months, there is a real risk many young people will fall apart,” she added.

Virologist Marc Van Ranst, who has openly warned against big relaxations before May, has said expanding outdoor bubbles is an option, adding: "It's not a huge change, but at the same time it can mean something to a lot of people."

Interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht said that these changes with a relatively small risk level, such as expanding outdoor bubbles, could be made before April, but added that we should think very carefully about when to relax which rules.

Infectious disease expert Steven Callens emphasised it remains important to respect the rules even when outdoors.

"The virus can spread anywhere under the right circumstances and conditions,” he told Radio 1’s De Ochtend.

He said it is clear that, when outdoors, people don’t always respect the rules like keeping 1,5 metres distance and wearing a face mask, referring to pictures from this weekend showing large groups of people violating these measures.

The risk also depends on the circumstances, Callens said: “Eight people walking in a park will be safer than eight people sitting around a table with lots of food and drink."

Lauren Walker

The Brussels Times

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