Updated 25 March. After a morning of discussions with the various regional governments, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced today (24 March 2021) the new measures, which will come into force for a period of four weeks.
The committee noted a new high seven-day average of 221 hospitalisations and the doubling of the number of cases every two weeks. It also noted an increase in the positivity rate last week, with teenagers (10-19 years old) and the 40-64 age group accounting for the largest increases. Most of the recent COVID outbreaks are in education and work.
“The British variant of coronavirus has become dominant [in Belgium]," said De Croo. "Intensive care units do not know how much longer they can keep going. The nature of the virus has changed."
Based on these findings, the Belgian Concertation Committee has decided on a set of temporary measures to reverse this upward trend.
1. Gatherings of up to 4 people outside
Groups of people (children up to 12 years old not included) can meet outdoors with a maximum of four people only - down from 10. Households with more than four people can of course move in larger numbers.
2. Non-essential stores by appointment only
Non-essential stores can only welcome customers by appointment, and the maximum number of customers that can be simultaneously on site depends on the size of the store, but the absolute maximum is 50 people. Two people from the same household can be in the store at the same time - but preferably shop alone.
Home deliveries and "click-and-collect" are still possible, provided there is no physical contact and the customer does not enter the store.
Essential stores (including grocery stores, pharmacies, but also hygiene products stores, fabric stores, florists and nurseries, telecom stores and bookstores) can continue to welcome customers without appointment.
Update: The Ministry has now specified the establishments or parts of establishments that can remain open. They are:
- Food stores, including night shops
- Hygiene and care products stores
- Pet food stores
- Newsagents and bookstores
- Petrol stations
- Telecommunications stores
- Medical device stores
- DIY stores
- Garden centers and nurseries
- Flower and plant shops
- Wholesale stores for professionals
- Retail businesses that sell clothing fabrics
- Haberdashery and stationery stores
- Service providers such as car washes, ice cream parlours and real estate agents can continue to operate.
3. Closure of non-medical contact professions
Non-medical contact trades must close. This includes (amongst others):
Non-medical pedicure salons;
Hairdressers and barbers;
Tattoo and piercing parlours.
4. Youth and education
Classes at all levels of education (primary and secondary education, part-time artistic education, higher education and social advancement) are suspended from 29 March to 2 April inclusive. Nursery schools remain open. Examinations can, however, take place during the week preceding the Easter holidays.
Between 29 March and 2 April, day care will be provided for children whose parents perform functions where teleworking is not possible and for people who are unable to look after the children. Classes will resume after the Easter holidays, on Monday 19 April, if possible entirely face-to-face for the secondary level.
Youth camps and extracurricular activities remain authorised, in small groups of no more than 10 young people, and without overnight stays.
5. Stricter telecommuting controls
Controls on compliance with the teleworking obligation will be strengthened. Employers must keep a register specifying who is present at the workplace and when. Public administrations are also required to respect teleworking obligations.
6. Non-essential travel remains prohibited
Non-essential foreign travel remains prohibited during the Easter holidays. Border controls will be significantly strengthened.
The maximum number of participants for static demonstrations on public roads is limited to 50.
8. Importance of 'golden' ground rules
The Concertation Committee reiterated the importance of the following elements:
Respect by the population for the sanitary measures in force - social distancing, facemasks, handwashing etc;
A strict control of compliance with these rules by the police and inspection services;
Compulsory teleworking as well as the strict control of its application by the inspection services;
Measures taken by local authorities to avoid crowding in high-traffic areas.
This ministerial decree will remain in force until April 25 inclusive.
You can find the full notice (in French) here.