Belgium has to present clear timetable for reopening today, urges minister

Belgium has to present clear timetable for reopening today, urges minister
Credit: Belga

Today's Consultative Committee has to set a clear timetable for the reopening of all closed sectors in Belgium starting from April or May, according to Paul Magnette, leader of the Francophone socialist PS party.

Priority for relaxations should be for education, Magnette said, echoing earlier statements from Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, but a clear timetable for other sectors is needed.

"We need a timetable that opens up a clear outlook," he told Sudpresse on Friday morning. "We cannot leave a meeting this Friday with something vague or with a simple announcement of easing measures later."

According to Magnette, the hospitality and culture sectors could reopen after the Easter holidays. "I think that is the right moment," he said, pointing out that the people most at risk - the elderly, healthcare staff on the front lines, the high-risk groups - will be vaccinated by then.

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"We really could begin relaxing measures then," he said. "Those sectors need a set date, because they need time to prepare. Additionally, they still need support to bridge that period until then."

Following the announcement that the AstraZeneca vaccine can also be used for people over 55 years old, the vaccination strategy will be sped up, opening the door to a clearer timeline, according to Magnette.

Last week, the hospitality sector presented its "Safe Spring Plan," in which it guaranteed a safe step-by-step reopening for cafés, bars and restaurants across the country from 1 April to 1 July.

In the meantime, the event sector has also set its own date for reopening, beginning from 15 April and ending with a full reopening of the sector on 1 September.

Additionally, Magnette also said that Belgium's ban on non-essential travel will almost certainly be replaced by strict discouraging measures, adding that "European rules will force us to do that, but I am not asking for that at all."

"These trips by a very small minority make things terribly difficult in terms of controlling the virus," he added. "It is a real nightmare for local authorities, because not everyone is of good will."

Belgium's Consultative Committee will start discussing possible relaxations and perspectives from 2:00 PM, and will hold a press conference to announce the latest changes afterwards. An overview of what will be discussed can be found here.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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