These measures are in force on New Year’s Eve in Belgium
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These measures are in force on New Year’s Eve in Belgium

New Year's Eve in Brussels, before the coronavirus. Credit: Belga

Like most things in 2020, ending the year will not go the usual way. Strict coronavirus measures are in force across the whole country, and compliance will be thoroughly checked.

How many people can you celebrate with?

On New Year’s Eve, the rules are stricter than they were on Christmas. Just like last week, households can only receive one visitor – the so-called ‘cuddle contact’ of one household member – indoors.

Right before Christmas, the government clarified that children under 12 years old also count as cuddle contacts, meaning that they also count as “full” visitors for the festivities.

This means that it is not possible to invite an adult together with their children for New Year’s Eve, if the celebrations take place in your house.

For people living alone, the same rules apply. This means that the Christmas exception – which allowed singles to invite two people inside their homes – does not apply on New Year’s.

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What if you celebrate outdoors?

Outside, the general rules on gatherings apply, meaning that people are allowed to get together with a maximum of four people, while still respecting the distance and hygiene rules.

However, for outdoor gatherings, children up to 12 years old are not counted.

Additionally, just like for Christmas, if the celebrations take place in your garden, there has to be direct access, as only your cuddle contact is allowed to enter the house to grab a drink or use the toilet.

How long can the party last?

The curfew measures are still in place, and no exceptions will be made for New Year’s Eve.

In Flanders, the curfew is in force from midnight to 5:00 AM. In the Brussels-Capital Region and Wallonia, the rule applies from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

This means that any guests you have should be back home before midnight in Flanders, and before 10:00 PM in the rest of the country. The Walloon Region, which made an exception to the curfew for Christmas Eve, will not do the same tonight.

Additionally, a cuddle contact is also allowed to stay the night.

What about fireworks?

A general ban on the sale or setting off of fireworks is currently in force across the entire country.

Can you travel during the holidays?

Travelling within Belgium is no problem, but the same contact and hygiene measures apply across the whole country.

This means that people are allowed to take a trip with their own household and maximum one cuddle contact. However, bars and restaurants remain closed, even in hotels.

The government has issued strong advice against travelling abroad, and the Consultative Committee decided on stricter measures for returning travellers from 31 December.

Anyone who stayed in a red travel zone for more than 48 hours is required to quarantine and undergo two Covid-19 tests, one on day 1 and one on day 7.

Can you travel to the Ardennes to enjoy the snow?

Taking a trip to the south of Belgium is allowed, but the governor of Liège has decided to close the popular plateau on the Hautes Fagnes in the Ardennes to car traffic from 31 December to the end of the weekend.

Taking a trip to another spot is still possible, but keep in mind that all ski slopes and centres are closed.

What happens if you break the rules?

Anyone breaking the coronavirus rules risks a fine of €250. Fines for participating in an organised lockdown party have been tripled, from €250 to €750.

For organisers, the fines went up from €750 to €4,000, the legal maximum.

On New Year’s Eve, the police will carry out checks, they announced earlier this week. Additionally, there will be no warnings, and fines will be written out immediately.

Anonymous checks will also happen, and a police team will go to the scene if neighbours report possible infringements.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times