Why allowing outdoor activities is starting to make sense again
Wednesday, 03 March 2021
Even though Belgium’s coronavirus figures have not improved drastically compared to last week, politicians and experts are in favour of allowing people to meet in larger groups when outdoors.
The Consultative Committee will meet again on Friday to discuss the same changes that were on the agenda last week, and it seems likely that the expansion of people’s social contacts for outdoor activities will be announced at the end of the week.
Speaking to The Brussels Times, virologist and member of the GEMS expert group advising the government Steven Van Gucht said that when it comes to relaxations, it will only concern outdoor activities.
“What we are now allowed to do with four people, could perhaps be raised to six, eight or ten people,” he said. “That will be a political decision.”
According to Van Gucht, this is not the time to change the measures too much too quickly. If the rules are changed, however, they should be changed for people’s morale and mental wellbeing.
“It is important to make sure that people can bite the bullet,” he said, adding that it remains a risk because the infection and hospitalisation figures are not as low as the experts would like them to be.
Van Gucht also underlined that, should the authorities decide to allow more contacts in the open air, it would not be because the situation has suddenly improved, but to “give a bit of extra hope, so people’s can keep following the other measures.”
“To boost people’s well-being and motivation, those outdoor activities are the lowest hanging fruit you can pick, without increasing the risk too much,” Van Gucht said.
The latest results of the Great Corona Study showed that, more than anything, Belgians want to see more people, something which Van Gucht acknowledged by saying that he is aware that seeing a few more people when outside is still “not spectacular.”
However, a strict distinction should always be made between people’s indoor and outdoor activities.
“Seeing more people when outside it is not really an expansion of your contact bubble,” Van Gucht said, adding that it would concern people to go for a walk or a bike ride with.
“You could meet up somewhere, but the distance must always be maintained,” he said, stressing the risk of a third wave would increase very much if these people would become close contacts.
“It should really only be a small relaxation, but people should not despair too much about that,” Van Gucht said. “Things are going to get better, more is going to be possible, but March is not the right month to go too far yet.”