Initially, the new Flemish measures were supposed to be implemented at 6PM on Friday, but because of the urgency of the situation they have now been brought forward to midnight on Wednesday and secondary federal legislation will be modified to allow this.
At Tuesday evening's newsconference Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (nationalist) and his ministers were keen to stress the importance of the three basic rules in protecting us and those we hold dear from the virus: keep your distance, wear a face covering and maintain a high level of hand hygiene.
Mr Jambon also said that it was important that people uphold the rules as this is the only way in which a second full lockdown can be averted.
At the start of the press conference Mr Jambon announced that unlike Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region Flanders would not be extending the hours of the curfew brought in by the Federal Government. In the 5 Flemish provinces the curfew will remain in force between midnight and 5am. In Wallonia and Brussels, the curfew is in force from 10pm until 6am.
Mr Jambon, who is also Culture Minister, also announced that all cultural venues (theatres, concert halls, museums, cinema, etc…) will close from 6pm on Friday. However, libraries will remain open, as will weekly food markets.
Telework, shopping and compensation for firms forced to close
The Flemish Economy Minister Hilde Crevits (Christian democrat) announced that telework i.e. working from home needs to be better organised and more widespread than is currently the case. To this end she will hold talks with the employers and the unions.
She also announced that from Friday at 6pm no more than 2 adults or 1 adult with 1 or more children will be allowed to shop together.
Ms Crevits added that companies that will have to close as a result of the additional measures will be able to apply for the same compensation packages as companies that have already been forced to close due to measures introduced earlier. They will be able to apply without having to provide proof of loss of earnings.
Get tough policy
The Flemish Interior Minister Bart Somers (liberal) announced that the number of people permitted to attend weddings and funerals will not be able to exceed 40.
He also announced a get-tough policy on those flouting the rules with conductors on the Flemish public transport company De Lijn’s busses and trams being allowed to issue on the spot fines to those failing to wear face masks when travelling.
Ban on amateur sport for the over 12’s
From Friday all amateur sport, including training will be banned for anyone over the age of 12. Professional sport will be allowed to continue as will amateur sport for the under 12’s.
Individual sport such as running, walking and cycling is still allowed and in fact even encouraged. However, gyms will be forced to close from Friday. Those wishing to play sport with others must do so outside and with no more than 3 other people.
As we reported earlier the half-term school holidays have been extended upto and including 11 November.
Code Red will be in force in Flemish Higher Education from 6pm on Friday. This means that all courses must be taught by distance learning means. However, the Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts (nationalist) said that some room should be left for face to face teaching of 1st year students and in the case of practical courses such as those that involve laboratory work.
Restrictions on care home visits
The Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke (Christian democrat) announced that from 6pm on Friday care home residents will be allowed 1 visitor that they can kiss, embrace, etc (a so-called “cuddle contact”) and 1 other visitor that they keep their distance from. These contacts can change every 14 days.
Carers will be allowed to stay overnight and sleep at care homes. Mr Beke also announced the creation of buffer capacity at residential and recovery centres. This capacity could be used if insufficient beds were available in hospitals.
Youth activities suspended for the over 12’s
The Flemish Youth Minister Benjamin Dalle (Christian democrat) announced that from Friday at 6pm all activities (youth groups, youth clubs, camps, holiday clubs…) will be suspended for children over the age of 12. While children under the age of 12 will still be able to take part in activities, any activities that involve overnight stays will be banned.
However, public playgrounds and facilities such as basketball courts in parks will remain open.
Given the situation several mayors are also bringing forward the introduction date. This is the case in Ghent, Mechelen, Ostend, Leuven, Aarschot and Houthalen-Helchteren.