Belgium apologises for confusion about Christmas rules for children
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Belgium apologises for confusion about Christmas rules for children

Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. © Belga

On behalf of the government, Belgium’s Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke apologised for the confusion caused by the announcement that children under 12 also count as ‘cuddle contacts’ when gathering indoors.

While Vandenbroucke stressed that the rules have not, in fact, changed, he apologised for the confusion and last-minute cancelled Christmas plans, as the measure was “not clear enough” on VRT News on Thursday afternoon.

“And if something is not clear enough, it’s not the student’s fault, but the teacher’s,” he added. “I understand the dismay if people had not understood that. That is very annoying, and I do think we should take the blame.”

Children under 12 are the exception to a lot of coronavirus measures in Belgium: they do not have to wear face masks, they have more relaxed rules at school, and they can still play in a group outside.

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Many people thought this meant children were also exempt from the maximum number of visitors allowed at home, but this turns out to be wrong.

“Until recently, we looked at it differently, but we now know that young children may not get sick easily, but they do pass on the infection,” Vandenbroucke said.

The rule that children under 12 – which includes babies – also count as cuddle contacts has been on the government website since 1 November, according to him. “But we should have repeated it more often, it was not sufficiently clear,” he said.

Christmas plans involving grandchildren will have to be cancelled, if they break the rules, according to Vandenbroucke. Only when gathering outside, an exception will be made for children under 12.

“It is not the case that the authorities will act in a bloodthirsty way or will never show understanding, but the rules are what they are,” he said. “You are not going to hear me say that a rule suddenly no longer exists.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times