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Covid-19: Is this the end of the cuddle contact?

Annelies Verlinden, minister of home affairs. © Belga

June 9 will see not only the opening of bars and restaurants indoors, but also the end of restrictions on who we may kiss and cuddle, according to the Flemish newspapers.

The conclusion is based on a provisional draft of the ministerial decree being prepared by the office of federal home affairs minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V), which will contain the new measures to come into effect from 9 June.

The measure limiting the number of long-term close contacts no longer applies,” the draft notes.

But that doesn’t mean all barriers are down, apparently.

The rule on cuddle contacts will be replaced by the rule of four,” said a spokesperson for Verlinden’s office. In other words, groups in public are limited to four as they would be at a restaurant table, excepting children and unless they are all of the same household.

No rule, however, as to who those four people can be, according to the office of Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon (N-VA), where they also confirmed that “the term ‘cuddle contact will be allowed to drop.”

According to infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe, who chairs the Covid management committee GEMS, this change in the rules is not something picked up at the initiative of the experts. And she would like some clarification.

The politicians will have to explain it themselves. We have certainly not written this in our advice,” she said.

Verlinden, meanwhile, addressed the question of what the rules will be for gatherings in private homes – where aside from some parties involving huge numbers, very few police interventions have taken place even when stricter rules were in place.

The Consultative Committee decided to return the responsibility to the people for contacts at home,” she said. “We now all know what to do to deal with corona safely, and that certainly also applies to contacts at home.”

Pedro Facon, chair of the Corona Commission, backed her up, with one caveat.

The Commission can support this view, also in the knowledge that it makes little difference to citizens whether or not something is included in a ministerial decree or the Official Gazette. However it is not because something is no longer prohibited that it is mandatory or wise to do.”