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    National security council: What’s on the agenda?

    Prime minister Sophie Wilmès chairs the security council.. © Belga

    The national security council will meet today to discuss the next phase of relaxation of the lockdown measures first applied in March.

    On the agenda will be the opening-up of sectors that remain closed, and extra leeway for some sectors that are already open.

    At the same time, the council is likely to look at the worrying phenomenon of unauthorised mass gatherings such as took place last weekend in the Brussels communes of Ixelles and Anderlecht.

    The meeting today will principally be concerned with Phase 4 of the deconfinement, and the lifting of some of the few restrictions that remain starting on July 1.

    Those include public swimming pools, function rooms for wedding receptions or funerals, and casinos. The issue with swimming pools is the limit of the number of people swimming at any one time, as well as access to changing rooms and showers.

    For function rooms and casinos, the main problem will be social distancing. However it is difficult to see how restrictions can be imposed that are stricter than those applying in restaurants, where up to ten people may be seated at the same table.

    Theme parks and indoor playgrounds, for whom the summer school holidays are a peak time, can expect to be reopened under the usual restrictions. Any decision by the security council to delay reopening is likely to be fatal to many of these businesses.

    A number of entertainment venues, meanwhile, will not be able to look forward to a reopening before August. Those include music festivals and night clubs.

    Cultural activities and religious rites are already open with attendance restrictions. The council is being asked to allow the number of people present to be increased to more than 200.

    All of these discussions will be taking place in the shadow of the events of last weekend in Brussels, when hundreds gathered in an impromptu gathering in Anderlecht and on Place Flagey in Ixelles. Social distancing was ignored by the predominantly young crowds, and not a mask was to be seen.

    The security council will be acutely aware that what may appear to be an outburst of youthful exuberance is also a sign of the fragility of the social contract that allows the restrictions to operate. The two incidents showed that if the population is not happy with the freedom it is allowed, it will take the freedom it demands.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times