Cheat Sheet: How Belgium can celebrate Coronavirus Christmas
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Cheat Sheet: How Belgium can celebrate Coronavirus Christmas

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While Belgium’s Consultative Committee stressed on Friday that celebrating Christmas and New Year’s is safest when done in your own household bubble, there are still some possibilities for people who want to see others for the holidays.

As bars and restaurants remain closed, and the curfew and ban on gatherings remain in force to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus in the country, meeting up with some people – while still respecting the rules – remains possible.

Can you invite family to celebrate Christmas in your garden?

Yes, but the group cannot be larger than four people in total, not counting children younger than 12 years old.

Additionally, you can only invite people to your garden if you have direct access to the garden, and your guests do not have to pass through your home.

The social distancing and hygiene rules have to be respected at all times, unless one of your guests is the so-called ‘cuddle contact’ of one person in the household. With that person, respecting the social distance is not necessary.

Do you always have to invite the same people in your garden?

No. In your garden, the same rules apply as everywhere else outdoors. You can meet whoever you like, as long as the group is not larger than four people, and the distance and hygiene rules are respected.

Can you organise a bigger gathering in a nearby park?

No. The maximum size of a group is four people, no matter where you are.

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What if you live alone? Can you invite two people for Christmas?

Yes. On Friday, the Consultative Committee decided that people living alone can invite both of their close contacts on 24 and 25 December, if they want to.

Usually, people living alone are allowed to have one cuddle contact, with who they do not need to respect the distance or hygiene measures, and one other contact. These two contacts are normally not allowed in the house at the same time, but for Christmas, an exception is made.

“Celebrating Christmas with three is completely different than with two,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “We do not want anyone to have to celebrate alone.”

It is possible to celebrate with the three of you at the same time. “This is not dumb, but still, be careful,” said Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. “And make sure that you do not change close contacts.”

Additionally, the curfew still applies during the holidays, meaning that people will have to be home before midnight in Flanders, and before 10:00 PM in the Brussels-Capital Region and Wallonia.

For families, nothing changes. They can invite one extra person – the cuddle contact of one of its members.

Is this extra guest for people living alone also allowed for New Year’s?

No. On 31 December and 1 January, the general rules apply to everyone, including people living alone. No two people can visit someone else at the same time.

According to Vandenbroucke, this decision was made to limit contacts. “The big risk lies in changing contact groups. That is what the virus likes,” he said.

Will there be police checks?

Yes, but they will not systematically knock on every door to see how many people are present, according to Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.

Checks on lockdown parties, however, will be continued. “A number of these parties have already been checked. If it is found that there is a lot of noise or that there is a whole group of people together in a small room, the police will be able to intervene,” she told VTM News.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times