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Leaving lockdown: how it could happen in Belgium

Credit: Jules Johnston/ The Brussels Times

As Belgium continues to debate changes in the lockdown measures, the group of national experts tasked with exit strategy has developed a draft proposal on how the next steps could look.

Most notably, the Group of Experts for an Exit Strategy (GEES) has recommended a partial reopening of businesses and shops from 4 May and a return to school from 18 May, according to Le Soir. However, these are not the only changes proposed by the group.

It should be noted, however, that as it stands this is a draft proposal, ahead of a formal discussion on Friday, meaning details could still change and develop. 

4 May – Work Resumes: Non-essential activities including construction, wholesale trade, manufacturing and transport (except for aviation) can pick up again, according to GEES, though teleworking would still be mandatory wherever possible.

The report explicitly mentions banks and insurance companies, who could work from a distance, and also refers to stores that sell products necessary to make face masks. Administrative services could also be picked up again.

This follows news from Belgium’s decoration and paint shops, who have called on the government to let them reopen or risk unfair competition with the stores already allowed to open during the country’s lockdown.

18 May – Back to School:
GEES has recommended a partial reopening of schools, in line with moved by many other countries. Children in the sixth, first and fifth grade of primary school should return to classes, in that order of priority. In high school, only final-year pupils should return to school for one to two days a week. Kindergartens should remain closed.

Leisure Activities – but no cafes: In terms of leisure, parks and playgrounds can open again. GEES suggests the possibility of an evening out with family or close friends over the weekend (with a fixed group of up to 10 people) and recommends allowing certain outdoor sports again, such as tennis and golf, with maximum two people.

Restaurants and cafés should remain closed, however.

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The relaxation of these measures can only happen if social distancing is maintained, face masks are available, hygiene rules and workplace protocols are respected, and up to 40,000 tests a day are carried out.

Elderly people or those with medical problems will have to remain isolated in order to protect themselves, the GEES also recommended.

The group will deliver the report to the National Security Council on Wednesday. The Council will then meet on Friday to discuss the lockdown phase-out, taking the GEES report into account, though they are not obliged to follow the advice.

Other topics, including the long-awaited decision on summer weddings, are expected to be tackled during this meeting. Ultimately, these measures will not go into place until officially presented by the council, as has been the case with other measures.

The Brussels Times

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