The “Easter pause” will officially end on 26 April, after which Belgium will “start relaxing some of its coronavirus-fighting measures again,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced during a press conference on Wednesday.
“We, with the Consultative Committee, have opted for a cautious and realistic approach, relying heavily on trust,” De Croo said. “If you look at the situation in the hospitals, you cannot say that we have received much good news in recent days.”
“That is why we decided to keep the ‘Easter pause’ of four weeks in full,” De Croo said, meaning that it will remain in place until 26 April. After this date, certain measures will be lifted.
Here’s what you need to know:
Schools: From Monday 19 April, schools will reopen following the same rules as before the Easter pause. Pupils in the second and third grades of secondary education (aged 15-18) will only be able to physically attend school half-time, with half-time distance learning still in place.
Travel: Also from Monday 19 April, the ban on non-essential travel to and from Belgium will also be lifted. People returning from a red zone will have to quarantine and will be required to get tested on days 1 and 7 of their return.
Shopping: From Monday 26 April, non-essential shops can reopen fully again, scrapping the much-criticised shopping by-appointment system.
Outdoors: Also from Monday 26 April, people can gather outside in groups of ten people, both in public and private spaces, but they must wear face masks and maintain social distancing.
Test events: From Monday 26 April, pilot projects, which will involve testing, will also be launched in the culture and sports sectors.
The First Milestone
From this point, measures are more dependent on two major vaccination milestones, according to de Croo. The first milestone is when seven out of ten people aged over 65 will have received their first shot, and there must also be a “permanently improved” situation in the intensive care units.
Once that happens (around 8 May), Belgium will switch to a broad outdoor plan, which includes:
The end of curfew: The curfew will be replaced with a ban on gatherings of more than three people at night.
More cuddle contacts: Inviting two so-called ‘cuddle contacts’ of the same household will also become possible.
Terraces reopen: The hospitality industry will be allowed to open their terraces.
Events: Organised outdoor activities will once again be possible with a maximum of 25 people. Worship services, cultural performances, and events with a maximum of 50 people are also allowed.
Amusement parks will also reopen and professional flea markets may be organised again.
The Second Milestone
This then comes to the second milestone, which comes to pass when almost all people over 65 and people with underlying disorders will have received a shot.
Once this happens more social contacts and events will be possible again and more could be done indoors. An important condition is that the situation in the intensive care units is “normalised.”
“This is expected in early June. From then on, events will again be possible, and more will also be possible indoors,” De Croo said.
This includes the organisation of cultural events and fairs outdoors, more social contacts, and the opening of gyms indoors.
“We can succeed in this if we take responsibility, together,” De Croo said. “If we keep our distance from each other, if we keep away from crowded places, if we do not do things that endanger each other. We are stronger if we work together.”