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What Belgium’s Consultative Committee is discussing today

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (left) and Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon. Credit: Belga

Belgium’s Consultative Committee is meeting again to clarify details on relaxations for specific sectors and a “broader summer plan” that could include large festivals.

The Committee started the meeting in person at 9:00 AM. Afterwards, a press conference to announce the latest decisions is expected to take place, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

New immediate relaxations do not seem likely, as the authorities are mainly expected to focus on setting a timeline for the “summer of freedom” that De Croo previously promised.

With its “Freedom Plan,” the Flemish government already presented the federal authorities with a step-by-step plan that is supposed to lead to a tentative return to normality by October.

The plan aims to progressively relax coronavirus restrictions each month depending on the progress of the pandemic in Belgium, with certain thresholds for the number of patients in hospital and intensive care for every month.

If fewer than 500 patients are in ICU by 1 June, 200 people will be allowed to attend outdoor and indoor events, for example, according to the plan’s timeline.

From 1 July, outdoor events with up to 5,000 people and indoor events up to 3,000 people would be possible, following sector protocols. From August, these numbers could rise to 10,000 outdoors and 4,500 indoors.

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According to Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon, the Consultative Committee’s decisions “must be in line” with Flanders’ proposal.

De Croo’s announcement on Sunday that large festivals must be possible again in the second half of the summer seems to imply agreement with (parts of) the Flemish plan, despite comments from several GEMS experts that this is “completely at odds” with their suggestions.

Additionally, De Croo stated that the Consultative Committee will work out the conditions for “a broader summer plan” today, in consultation with Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.

This weekend, however, Vandenbroucke already warned against basing certain relaxations on specific dates instead of the progress of the pandemic but also said that “a beautiful summer is still possible if we are extra careful now.

Now that the terraces have reopened, the full reopening of the hospitality industry will also be discussed. According to Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, bars and restaurants should be allowed to serve clients indoors from 1 June if there are about 500 people in ICU and the vaccination rate is high enough.

Another critical point for the hospitality sector that is expected to be discussed is the use of plexiglass or plastic screens between terrace tables, so they can be closer together to accommodate more customers.

Last Friday, bar and restaurant owners across the country were furious about the decision, as it was only communicated one day ahead of the reopening.

Additionally, as fitness centres have increasingly been putting pressure on the authorities to be allowed to reopen, specific protocols for the sector may be discussed, alongside reevaluated rules for outdoor activities, according to reports in local media.

The possible introduction of a Belgian “corona pass” will also be on the agenda, as both Vervoort and Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke previously stated that they favoured it once everyone has had the chance to be vaccinated.