As Belgium’s lockdown has been extended by two weeks, and the possibility of two more weeks after that is up in the air, questions have arisen about whether or not seeing your partner is still allowed, if you are not living together.
“The guidelines (of the Crisis Centre) say: you can go jogging or walking accompanied by one friend. That could be your boyfriend or girlfriend. So yes, you can meet them,” said Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon on VTM Nieuws (video). “If they live on the other side of the country, that is a bigger problem than when they live in the same municipality, for example. But in principle, it is allowed,” added Jambon.
However, Yves Stevens, a spokesperson of the National Crisis Centre, has repeatedly stressed during several press conferences that “now is not the time to get creative with the rules” forbidding non-essential travel.
“11 million different people live in Belgium. We cannot make a separate rule for everyone. Use your common sense and stay inside,” said Stevens to VRT. “You have to ask yourself, is what I’m doing good to protect me and others from the coronavirus? Visiting your sweetheart does not fit in there,” he added.
He also clarified that this is definitely not the moment to go and visit your partner if they live far away. “If they live in the same area, you can still go walking or cycling together,” Stevens said, but an actual visit is not part of that rule.
The goal is to prevent two different networks of people from coming into contact with one another to contain the (further) spread of the virus, said virologist Marc Van Ranst in Het Journaal (video). If your partner does not live in the same area, visiting them can cause the virus to spread from your “network” to theirs. “For me, this is very clear. This is a non-essential movement,” he added.
“It is not the intention that a 16-year-old is going to visit their boyfriend or girlfriend, but two adults with a steady relationship, who moreover now have a limited social circle, are allowed to visit each other,” Stevens said to De Standaard.
The info website of the Crisis Centre states that “you have to limit the contact to your family and possibly one extra person. So you can still visit your partner. Of course, do not do it if one of you is sick or shows symptoms.” However, Stevens still stresses to use common sense: if it is not necessary, then don’t.