One ‘cuddle contact’, no visits: how Belgium’s new contact rules work
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One ‘cuddle contact’, no visits: how Belgium’s new contact rules work

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As Belgium went into lockdown again on Monday, people’s close social contacts were further reduced to only one person outside of their households.

“The most important rule remains the limiting of our close contacts, or our so-called ‘cuddle contacts.’ The success of our fight against the virus stands and falls with this,” virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht said.

“A cuddle contact is someone you talk to while physically close, someone you eat or drink with, or someone you hug,” he clarified, adding that this is someone who does not live in the same household as you.

“Make sure that this is always the same person,” Van Gucht stressed, adding that the person you choose also has to choose you. “Discuss this well in advance, because you pick each other for six weeks.”

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With the people who live under the same roof as you, such as your family or housemates, you can maintain normal and close contact, according to him. “With everyone outside your household, however, you should in principle keep a distance of 1.5 metres,” he said.

If keeping the necessary distance is difficult, like when shopping for groceries, wearing a face mask is necessary. “However, a mask does not replace the distance rules,” Van Gucht said, adding that physical distance remains the basis.

Additionally, it is strongly discouraged for grandparents to have close or cuddle contacts with their grandchildren.

A household is no longer allowed to receive guests in their home, except for one person at a time. “And that one person must be a cuddle contact from one of the members of the household,” Van Gucht said.

People who live alone are allowed to receive two people at home, but not at the same time. “Someone who lives alone can have their cuddle contact over, and someone else can also visit, but at another time,” he explained. “With this person, you always keep your distance.”

Outside, people can form a small group of up to four people, children up to 12 years old not included. “When outdoors, you also have to keep a safe distance from the people in your group who do not belong to your household or are not your cuddle contact.”

Households made up of more than four people older than 12 can still be outside together, as well, Van Gucht said.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times