Children under 12 count as ‘cuddle contacts,’ but only indoors
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Children under 12 count as ‘cuddle contacts,’ but only indoors

Credit: Pxhere

Belgium’s coronavirus rule allowing one extra visitor per household for Christmas also includes children under 12 years old, but only if the gathering takes place indoors.

On Wednesday, the Crisis Centre clarified that children under 12 years old also count as so-called ‘cuddle contacts’, meaning that they also count as “full” visitors for the festivities.

When gathering outdoors, however, children under 12 are not included in the group of up to four people that are allowed to gather in your garden to celebrate, while still respecting the distance and hygiene measures.

This announcement can complicate plans for Christmas, as households can only have one guest (who has to be the ‘cuddle contact’ of one of the household members), and people living alone can have two, but many thought that children under 12 were still allowed to join as well.

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Most of the confusion stems from that fact that children under 12 have been the exception to a lot of coronavirus measures up until now: they do not have to wear a face mask, for example, they have different rules in schools, and they can play in groups on playgrounds.

In practice, this means that grandparents, for example, can have their child over for Christmas dinner, or their grandchild, but not both.

“A while ago, we said that every family member can have one cuddle contact,” Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said on Flemish television programme Terzake on Wednesday evening. “A 10-year-old child who is not part of your own family can also be your regular cuddle contact.”

For clarity, this measure only applies indoors. “When having visitors over and for things like hugging, children are actually the same as grown-ups,” said Vandenbroucke.

Additionally, he stressed that people should not get stuck on the rules, but see the big story. “I know it is difficult, but it is good that the discussion is alive now.”

“The most important part is that people reflect on the essence of the rules, that they should be ultra-cautious, and realise that children can also walk around with the virus,” Vandenbroucke said.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times