Belgium’s National Security Council will discuss next phase on Wednesday
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    Belgium’s National Security Council will discuss next phase on Wednesday

    © Belga

    Belgium’s National Security Council will meet again on Wednesday 24 June to discuss the next phase of relaxations that are set to go into force from 1 July.

    The Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES) will deliver a report to the ministers, with a general overview of the topics to be discussed on Wednesday. The meeting is set to start a 9:00 AM, and this is what will likely be on the agenda.

    This latest meeting comes at a changed time for the country, following reports of hundreds of people partying on Place Flagey in the Brussels this weekend. In line with previous statements by the PM, this means opens up the possibility that the easing of measures from July will be approached more carefully than initially planned.

    Social contact: The extension of the so-called “contact bubbles” from 1 July will also be on the table. Currently, people are allowed to see 10 others per week.

    Events: The main question will be in what circumstances events will be able to take place this summer. Music festivals will not be allowed until the end of the summer, but events such as street parties and fairs could be allowed to go through, under certain conditions.

    At the moment, no rules have been announced for these situations, but in recent weeks, there seemed to be a growing consensus to allow a maximum of 200 visitors.

    Additionally, the ministers are working on a so-called event matrix, with 18 criteria. The mayors should be able to fall back on this checklist to make an assessment and decide whether or not an event can take place.

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    Cultural activities: As announced during the last press conference, cinemas and theatres can reopen from 1 July, barring any surprises. A maximum of 200 people will be allowed, and they will need to keep a 1.5 metres distance from each other.

    The same rules will be applicable for cultural activities with an audience. However, the risk guidelines may also apply, with different protocols for actors or musicians on stage.

    If the rules announced during the previous meeting still hold true, wearing a face mask will be “highly commended” for everyone attending.

    The hospitality sector: For halls where receptions or festivities can be organised, an extension from 30 to 50 guests is on the table, for example for weddings and funerals. Social distancing rules will have to respected at all times. The sector is also asking for this to be extended to catering on location.

    Additionally, the 1:00 AM closing time of bars, cafes and restaurants is back on the table. The closing hour was introduced to avoid situations getting out of hand when too many people would get drunk.

    However, since the afterparty on the Flagey square this weekend, the question of whether it might be better to stay open just a little longer, so that the sector can supervise more.

    Sports: After the fitness centres were allowed to reopen in Phase 3, swimming pools are set to get the go-ahead from 1 July. Groups playing sports together will likely also be expanded from 20 now to 50 people.

    Leisure: Zoos have already reopened, and amusement parks should follow on 1 July. Religious services will also be expanded from 100 to a maximum of 200 participants.

    For markets, a relaxation of the rules is also a possiblity. Currently, a maximum of 50 stalls are allowed, but that number could be increased from 1 July.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times