The federal police has asked the government’s crisis centre for a clearer indication of the rules relating to activities that are allowed to take place outside the home.
Since the introduction of the lockdown, the general rule is to stay at home, with few exceptions. Most are clear: visit to the doctor or the pharmacy, shopping for food, helping someone who needs it, going to the bank, post office or petrol station.
And, for those unable to work from home, travelling and from to the workplace.
There remains the question of exercise, however, and that is where the rules need clarification, police say.
All of the authorities accept that regular exercise is vital to good health, but while gyms, fitness centres and swimming pools remain closed, the open air is the only option left. However the police are faced with a contradiction: how to enforce the rule against going outside unnecessarily, while still allowing for a healthy dose of exercise.
The only clarification offered so far has been that exercise outdoors should take place in the vicinity of the home. But that is much too vague, complains Nicholas Paelinck, chair of the standing committee of local police forces.
“The police can barely operate on that basis,” he told De Standaard.
“If we come across a cyclist 50km away from home, we have no power to say that’s not allowed. And what about all those walkers? If they tell us they left the car at home and have walked 5km since then, there’s nothing we can do.”
The police are now asking for strict rules such as those in force in France, where exercise is limited to one hour a day, in an area no larger than one kilometre from home. Although the exact distance might need to be adapted.
“As long as the rule is clear,” Paelinck said. “Not only for us, but also for the public.”