Bubble of ten for outdoor activities from Monday

The Consultative Committee that is made up of representatives of Belgium’s federal, regional and language community governments has made a number of decisions regarding the coronavirus restrictions. The meeting ended early on Friday evening and in a press conference that got underway at around 7pm a number of relaxations to the coronavirus measures were announced. The restrictions on non-essential travel will remain in force until after the Easter holidays. 

The changes that will come into force on Monday relate to activities in the open air. Given the current epidemiologic situation with relation to COVID-19 the Consultative Committee did not deem it prudent to relax measures relating to activities that take place in doors just yet.

From Monday 8 March we will all be allowed to meet up as a group of up to 10 for activities in the open air such as a walk or to sit and chat on the grass at the park. Social distancing must be maintained at all times and face coverings must be worn. Currently groups of no more than 4 people are permitted to gather together outside in this way. However, the recent good weather at the weekends has shown that many people were no longer respecting the rule. 

The Consultative Committee had been under pressure to find a way of allowing more social contact without fuelling an upsurge in coronavirus infections. VRT sources say that those at the meeting only arrived at the figure of ten after much discussion.  

Funerals with up to 50 mourners will also be allowed from 8 March, providing there is no more than 1 person per 10m² present. Currently just 15 mourners are allowed at funerals. 

From April outdoor events and religious services that are held outside should be allowed for up to 50 participants. From next month too up to 10 amateur sportspeople should be able to train together outside. Theme parks should also be allowed to reopen from April. 

The Federal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal) added the measures on open air markets could also be relaxed from next month. Any decisions on relaxations to the restrictions in April will be confirmed at the next meeting of the Consultative Committee on Friday 26 March. 

The restrictions on non-essential travel will remain in force until after the Easter holidays. 

Youngsters have something to look forward to

From 15 March students in higher education will be given face-to-face teaching one day a week. However, the so-call “digs bubble” in which the residents of the same digs would be treated in the same way as family members that live under the same roof to form a "bubble" will not be allowed. 

Pupils in tertiary and special education will be allowed to return to school from 15 March.

Children under the age of 13 will able to go to camp during the Easter Holidays. Children taking part in Easter camps will be tested at the start and at the end of the camp using rapid testing.  

The Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (Nationalist) told the press conference that after the Easter Holidays pupils in the 2nd and 3rd grades of secondary education (14 to 17 year-olds) will be given more face to face teaching.

Extra curicular activities such as school trips will also be allowed.

Children under the age of 13 will be able to take part in outdoor activities in groups of up to 25. Currently this is limited to groups of 10.

Mr Jambon also said that outdoor cultural activities will be allowed for up to 50 people from 15 April. 

Indoor activities from May

The Flemish PM also said that from 1 May bars and restaurants (both inside and outside) in our region will be allowed to reopen. The Flemish Government is also to increase its support measures for the hospitality industry from 10% of turnover during the year prior to the corona crisis to 15%. Mr Jambon said that this was to help hospitality businesses overcome the final hurdle ahead of reopening. 

"It will all depend on the figures"

The Federal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stressed that any future relaxation of the measures will be conditional on the evolution of the coronavirus figures. Mr De Croo stressed the important role that vaccination and testing will play on the road to regained freedom. “The real exit plan is the vaccination plan”, Mr De Croo said. He added that he has asked the Risk Assessment Group and the group that advises the government on coronavirus policy GEMS to draw up a plan for indoor activities. 

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