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How the size of your social bubbles is determined

Credit: Belga/Public Domain/Pxfuel

As Belgium gradually eases out of its lockdown against the new coronavirus (Covid-19), more and more people are allowed to be in contact with each other.

With the relaxation of several measures, people’s bubbles of others they can regularly be in contact with are getting bigger, but why can you play sports with 20 people, and attend a wedding with 30?

“Certain limits must be determined, and the exact number on which that limit is placed is not always determined purely scientifically or mathematically,” said virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht. “However, there are important principles behind them,” he added.

“We look at the closeness, the intimacy, of the contacts. When that’s in a family context behind closed doors, we assume that those contacts are probably a bit more intimate,” Van Gucht said, explaining why people can only receive up to 4 guests in their homes.

Whether or not different generations come into contact is also an important aspect. “A mix of young and old people creates some risk of transmission of the virus to the people who are most susceptible to it,” Van Gucht said.

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“A family get-together, for example, is riskier than an outdoor activity under the supervision of a coach, where everyone tries to keep the distance,” he said, adding that the presence of that supervisor is a particularly important factor for allowing sports clubs to resume training with up to 20 people.

Additionally, weddings and funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people, but the setting makes it easier to guarantee that everyone respects the social distance than when playing sports.

The size of the bubble also depends on what kind of people will be in contact. “For example, we know that children usually only experience very mild or no illness,” said Van Gucht, pointing to the summer camps for youth that are allowed to take place in bubbles of up to 50 people this summer.

“All these factors are taken into account when making such a decision,” he said. “Those numbers are based on that risk analysis, but the exact number that is then decided on is an artificial line that we have to draw somewhere,” Van Gucht added.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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