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What Belgium extending its rules to April actually means

Credit: Belga

In addition to the reopening of hairdressers and other contact professions, the Consultative Committee also decided to extend the other coronavirus measures currently in force in Belgium until 1 April.

The extension was implemented “in order to have the necessary legal certainty also after 1 March 2021,” the announcement by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo reads.

This means that the measures listed in the Ministerial Decree published on 28 October 2020 – which include the closure of the hospitality sector, the curfew rules, the obligation to telework and ban on gatherings – will be constitutional until the beginning of April, if the authorities do not change them before that time.

“Some kind of measures have been in force for almost a year now,” De Croo said during the press conference on Friday. “Let me be clear: we do not want to keep these measures in place one day longer than necessary.”

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Last month, an update to that same Ministerial Decree, which gives the Consultative Committee’s decisions a legal basis, made headlines across the country as it included an unannounced extension of the measures until 1 March.

Following criticism in the media, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said that the authorities did not consider an announcement necessary, as the extended 1 March deadline was “only a formality” because an end-date is necessary for legal validity.

Even though the 1 April extension was announced by the authorities this time, it was put in place for the same reasons, as De Croo stressed that it did “not mean that no interim decisions or revisions are possible in the meantime.”

Those first revisions or changes could already happen on Friday 26 February, when the next Consultation Committee is scheduled to take place. The authorities asked the experts to draw up out a clear roadmap on how to handle the following phases of the pandemic, taking into account not only the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths, but also the state of the vaccinations.

According to Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, the measures for the hospitality industry, the culture and events sector, and sports and activities will be evaluated then. “However, that does not mean that any relaxations will automatically be possible from then on.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times