Relaxing outdoor measures not same as larger social bubble, virologists warn

Relaxing outdoor measures not same as larger social bubble, virologists warn
Credit: Belga

Starting from Monday, people in Belgium can see a larger group of people outdoors, but virologists have urged people not to view this relaxation of measures as an expansion of their ‘social bubble’.

During Friday’s Consultative Committee, First Minister Alexander De Croo announced people could now meet with up to ten people outdoors, excluding children under the age of 12, but only if they practice social distancing and wear masks.

"There is no such thing as an outdoor bubble of ten people," virologist Marc Van Ranst told Het Nieuwsblad. "Sitting down elbow to elbow for a meal is not yet possible. Once again, for open-air activities, people will need to keep their distance and wear face masks."

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Both Van Ranst and virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht warned that there seems to be some confusion around these measures, and emphasised that it should not be considered a larger ‘social bubble’.

At the start of November last year, the number of close contacts was reduced to one ‘cuddle contact’ outside of people’s households, referring to someone you talk to while physically close, someone you eat or drink with, or someone you hug.

"It is absolutely not the intention that this new outdoor rule will increase the number of close contacts. That would be very unwise: we are currently faced with the more contagious British variant, the predicted difficult month of March is not yet behind us and we are still recording relatively high infection and hospital figures," said Van Gucht.

People can now gather in larger groups in public spaces and also in gardens, even if guests have to pass through the house to do so.

Lauren Walker

The Brussels Times

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