The Consultative Committee has decided to task Belgium’s different education ministers to draw up a list of short-term measures to further limit the risk of coronavirus infections in schools, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday.
The Committee has already started the ball rolling by deciding on a number of measures that need to be included, such as making face masks compulsory in the 5th and 6th grades of primary schools.
“The track & trace analysis shows that infections occur mainly in two places: in school and at work,” De Croo said at a press conference at the end of the Consultative Committee meeting.
It has therefore been decided, where schools are concerned, that “the ministers of education need to come up by Monday with a list of measures to limit, to the maximum, the risk of infection,” he explained.
Work on preparing the measures will therefore have to be done this weekend. These are not measures for implementation “in two weeks’ time (…) or after the Easter Holidays,” De Croo stressed. They are to take effect as quickly as possible.
The Committee has already decided on a number of elements that need to be on the list, according to a statement distributed at the press conference: face masks must be compulsory for fifth-graders and sixth-graders from Wednesday 24 March and 100% in-person education for the upper secondary classes, originally scheduled for 29 March, is to be postponed to the end of the Easter Holidays.
The return to 100% in-person education for all secondary classes cannot be envisaged before the end of the holidays, the Committee said, adding that this has to be accompanied “by regular testing of teachers and, in a second phase, of students.”
“Reopening schools after the Easter Holidays remains a priority, which justifies limiting contacts in the coming month as much as possible, the De Croo said.
“We absolutely want schools to be able to open after the Easter Holidays for all children and with in-person attendance every day, and to remain open,” Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said, but “if we wish to succeed, we need not only to remain particularly careful up to the end of the Easter Holidays, but also to take strong measures.”
Vandenbroucke declined to say whether the holidays could be extended. “It’s now up to the Ministers of Education to reflect” on the various solutions, he said.