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What to expect from the Consultative Committee

Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet again on Wednesday to discuss possible relaxations of the coronavirus measures after the Easter holidays.

The Committee will meet in person from 9:00 AM, and its decisions will be announced during a press conference afterwards, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

Several subjects will be on the table, but asked by VTM News about the decisions expected on Wednesday, De Croo said that it was best not to make too many statements in advance.

“This Consultative Committee must be able to make decisions in peace,” he said, calling on everyone – experts and politicians alike – not to create “high expectations” as “these decisions should be balanced ones.”

The reopening of the hospitality sector – which was planned for 1 May – will be one of the main topics on the table, even though several people, such as Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon, already stated that it would be better to postpone a reopening to mid-May instead.

Calls to at least reopen the terraces on 1 May, however, are rising, and the Liège governor already stated that bars and restaurants in his province could reopen them, regardless of what the Consultative Committee decides.

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Earlier this week, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke also stated that the Consultative Committee will set a framework for test events like in the Netherlands, where the authorities are looking into how to organise certain events safely, provided that a number of measures are followed.

Additionally, while the reopening of schools from next week will also be discussed, the Committee is not expected to make any changes to the decision to restart education the same way as before the Easter pause, made by the education sector on Monday.

The ban on non-essential travel to and from Belgium will be discussed as well, as the Ministerial Decree prohibiting it will expire from Monday 19 April, when the ban is set to be replaced by strict controls on testing and quarantining.

However, while going on holiday to other EU countries will likely be allowed again, it will remain strongly discouraged, considering the infection rates across member states.

In an interview with the Belga news agency last weekend, virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht stated that he had hoped the figures would have decreased more by now.

“Two weeks, however, can make all the difference,” he said, adding that it is expected that many sectors are asking for guarantees, “but we, as virologists, cannot yet give any.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times