Key ministers and health specialists decided not to wait until Thursday's National Security Council to come together to discuss the present situation, considering the growing number of new infections. On Sunday, a so-called Consultation Committee was held in the Brussels Egmontpaleis. Since the rising figures are mostly due to a number of local flare-ups, no new general restrictions are being imposed, but police will stage more checks.
Let's not exaggerate. We keep monitoring the situation
"Let's not exaggerate. We are monitoring the figures day after day. If extra measures are necessary, we will take them, on time", premier Sophie Wilmès (Francophone liberal) said. Interior Minister Pieter De Crem (Flemish christan democrat) and Health Minister Maggie De Block (Flemish liberal) were also speaking after the meeting to give an overview of what has been decided:
- The present corona measures are not being tightened yet.
- However, the present Covid restrictions will be checked more strictly by police (such as wearing a mouth mask in busy places like supermarkets and stations, and social distancing in public places). Members of the public are requested to follow the 6 golden rules (see bottom of page). Those flouting the rules risk fines of 250 euros.
- If you haven't booked a holiday abroad yet, it is advised to stay in Belgium (experts think this is a good way to avoid that the virus is being imported; at the same time you don't risk self-isolation upon your return if the situation in a certain country would take a turn for the worse). Pieter De Crem told reporters: "If you want my advice: if you haven't booked yet, stay in Belgium as much as possible." However, this is not an official advice issued by the whole federal government, PM Sophie Wilmès said.
- Further relaxations are off the table at present (such as allowing 400 people at indoor events and 800 outdoor; this is bad news for concert goers and football fans, among others). "This is no longer on the table", said Maggie De Block. "On the contrary, we may have to impose new measures next Thursday if the situation continues to worsen."
- The scientific health institute Sciensano, which is responsible for the Covid statistics, will communicate in daily figures instead of working with weekly averages. It is in fact a return to the old situation. Critics said that week figures had a lack of impact on people's awareness.
- Not much was said about contact tracing (a regional responsibility). The Flemish system is not working properly at all. The system has been "discussed thoroughly" today, and it is hoped that new patients testing positive can be contacted in a shorter term. Maggie De Block said "it is already working at present, but it will improve soon, we are working on that."
The six "golden" rules
- Respect basic hygiene rules (hand washing, no shaking hands or kissing, face masks when needed...)
- Stage your activities outdoors
- Take extra precautions for vulnerable people inside your contact group of 15
- Respect social distancing
- Close contacts can only be held with a maximum of 15 people in your personal 'bubble'
- If you stage group activities, always stick to these 15 persons