What are the measures contained in Belgium’s lockdown exit plan?

After another marathon meeting, the National Security Council finally announced the measures agreed to gradually ease Belgium out of lockdown at a press conference held late on Friday evening. The exit plan will be introduced in four stages (1A, 1B, 2 and 3) and can be modified according to the further evolution of the epidemic in our country. 

The approach is gradual and cautious. The wearing of masks covering the noise and face will play an important role in situations such as on public transport where maintaining social distancing can prove difficult.  

From 4 May the wearing of mouth masks will become compulsory on trains, metros, trams and buses and the National Security Council now says that it is advisory elsewhere when people are in public places.

Those that don’t have a mouth mask will be allowed to place a scarf, bandana or other cloth over their nose and mouth.

The authorities will strive to provide each and every one of us with at least one cloth mouth mask and two filters to put in it. Surgical masks and FFP2 masks will be reserved for medical staff.

The timing of the exit lockdown measures was also announced. The current measures remain in force in their entirety until midnight on Sunday 3 May. 

Phase 1A from Monday 4 May

From Monday 4 May companies in non-essential branches of industry will be able to resume work, albeit under a number of conditions. Tele-working will remain the norm and there should be no face to face contact with customers. Only B to B working will be allowed. The wearing of mouth masks will be mandatory on the work floor if social distancing of 1.5 metres cannot be maintained.

From this date mouth masks will become mandatory on public transport as the 1.5 metre social distancing rule will not be able to be maintained on trains, metros trams and buses once more people start to return to work.

The rule will apply to everyone over the age of 12 and is a applicable from the moment you enter a station or start standing at a bus or tram stop.

Advice has been given to avoid using public transport during peak times wherever possible. Those with their own transport (car, motorcycle, bike..) are advised to use this rather than public transport were ever possible. 

·        Stores selling cloth will be allowed to open. This is to enable those wishing to make their own masks to buy cloth, thread etc.…The health and safety rules applicable elsewhere (social distancing, maximum number of customers…) will apply here too.  

·        Access to specialised health care will be gradually expanded as the pressure on the hospitals subsides. 

·        People should remain at home as much as possible. Only essential journeys are allowed. The ban on gatherings remains in force. 

·        Sport: In addition to walking and cycling some other open air sports will be allowed. These can be practised together with a maximum of two other people that don’t live under the same roof as you. Social distancing remains applicable at all times. Indoor facilities such as showers remain closed. 

Phase 1B from Monday 11 May

·        From this date all shops will be allowed to reopen. As will the reopening of companies this will be subject to strict conditions. These conditions will be drawn up in consultation with the retail sector during the coming weeks.  

·        The authorities will also make a decision by this date about if and when competitive sport can re-start.

·        The regional tracing teams will start work on 11 May. It will be their job to trace the movements of those that have become infected and to alert those that an infected person has been in contact with. For the time being at least this this will not be done with the use of an app. 

Phase 2 from Monday 18 May

·        Schools will partially reopen from 18 May.

In primary and secondary education a maximum of three year groups will be allowed to be taught at school in groups of a maximum of ten per class. In the first instance the final years (pupils in the 6th year in both primary and secondary schools) and pupils the first and second years of primary school will be taught at school.

Children in other years that have parents that have returned to work will be provided with supervision at school if their parents are unable to find alternative child care. 

Nursery school teaching will remain suspended until at least the of May.  

If they wish schools are free to organise a test day on Friday 15 May. 

Nursery school teaching will remain suspended until at least the end of May.  

If they wish schools are free to organise a trial day on Friday 15 May.

Mouth masks will be mandatory for all children over the age of 12, for teachers and for parents that bring their children to school.

Water and soap must be available and teachers will have to make sure that pupils wash their hands correctly.

·      In the meantime it will be examined under which conditions professions that involve close contact with customers such as barbers and hairdressers scan resume their activities.

·        It will also be examined whether museums can reopen from this date and under what conditions.

·        The possibility of small private gatherings from this date is also being looked into. The number of people allowed to attend weddings and funerals might also be increase pending an evaluation of the situation.

·        It will also be looking into as to whether open air activities with more than two people that don’t live under the same roof will be allowed from this date.

The possibility of allowing day trips within Belgium is being considered in this phase as is allowing people to visit their second homes. 

Phase 3 from Monday 8 June at the earliest

A date for the introduction of the third phase of the measures has yet to be confirmed. In any case it won’t be before 8 June. What happens during the Phase 3 will depend on the further evolution of the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium.

·        The conditions under which restaurants and later bars could gradually be allowed to reopen in this phase is being examined.

·        By the end of May a decision will be made as to whether youth movements such as the Scouts will be able to organise summer camps.

·        It will also be examined as to whether trips of more than one day to destinations both inside and outside Belgium will be allowed and whether tourist attractions can reopen and smaller open air events can take place. However, all large-scale events remain banned until 31 August.