A top health official has urged Belgium to prepare for a subdued holiday season, warning that as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, traditional end-of-year gatherings are out of the question.
"Having ten guests over at home is not an option," virologist and Sciensano spokesperson Yves Van Laethem said, urging Belgian residents to stick to the principle of small social bubbles.
In a nod to those looking for ways to save the holidays, Van Laethem shared an unofficial how-to guide to organising the end-of-year period.
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"I propose that parties take place in different places with a maximum of four guests," the virologist, who became Sciensano's French-speaking frontman in late April, said in an interview with La Dernière Heure.
His comments follow suggestions from a virologist in Germany who suggested people should "pre-quarantine" in order to cut down risks ahead of inter-generational holiday gatherings.
Van Laethem also said that people should tone down signs of physical affection and continue to observe social distance rules throughout the typically jovial period.
"Neither hugs nor kisses are allowed, (...) we can get together to have a good time, but we must continue to observe the measures," Van Laethem said, adding that he himself had not hugged or kissed his daughter since March.
The virologist also said that, with curfews in place throughout the country, it remained unclear whether people could welcome the New Year together, but said officials could yield and make an exception to the rule.
"It would be a kind of Christmas truce," he said. "I don't think allowing one or two exceptions to the rule would lead to disaster."
But going all out for the holidays remains a no-go for the virologist, urging residents to remain wary and not loosen up too much even if things appeared to take a turn for the better.
"Even if we manage to go past the second wave, we must do all we can to avoid fueling a third wave by loosening up too much during the holidays," he said.
Van Laethem's comments echo those of a German health official who on Tuesday said German families should celebrate the holidays in small groups and "in shifts."
The Brussels Times