Today, 14 April 2021, the Belgian Consultation Committee met to decide on the modifications to the COVID-19 restrictions to coincide with the end of the Easter break. The decisions announced by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo are outlined below.
1. Reopening of schools
At the end of the Easter holidays, on 19 April, classes will resume under the regime in force before the Easter break. Specifically:
Nursery education, primary education, special secondary education, first level of secondary education and work-study training: 100% face-to-face;
Second and third level of secondary education: face-to-face at 50%;
Higher education: physical presence on campus one day a week.
Examinations can take place face to face.
If the COVID19 situation evolves in a favourable way, and after evaluation by the education ministers which will be submitted to the Consultation Committee, 100% secondary education in the classroom can resume from 3 May.
2. Non-essential travel: strict testing and quarantine regime
The ban on non-essential travel within the European Union will end on 19 April. As far as travel outside the Union is concerned, European rules still apply. A negative travel advisory remains in effect for all non-essential travel.
Upon returning, travellers must follow a strict regime of mandatory testing and quarantine. The Passenger Location Form will allow the police to identify people who do not get tested on their return. Anyone who does not comply with the rules on screening risks a fine of 250 euros.
3. End of the Easter break for stores and non-medical contact professions
On 26 April, the Easter break will come to an end. From this date gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors will be allowed.
From that date, stores will also be able to welcome walk-in customers again. Shopping will not need to be done alone, but you can be accompanied by another member of your household.
Non-medical contact professions - in particular hairdressers and beauty specialists - will be able to reopen in accordance with reinforced protocols.
At the same time, around thirty experiments and pilot projects will be launched to establish from a practical point of view and on the basis of scientific evidence the modalities of restarting different economic sectors safely and/or to avoid their closure in the future.
4. 70% of people aged 65+ vaccinated and protected: outdoor plan
On 8 May, when almost all of the over 65s will have been vaccinated and protected, a larger-scale outdoor plan will come into effect.
Organized activities (that is to say activities of sports clubs or associations) may bring together a maximum of 25 people outdoors and for all ages, but without welcoming the public and without overnight accommodation. Children up to 12 years old can be indoors with a maximum of 10 persons.
Moreover, the following will again be authorized outside:
Restaurants and cafes: outdoor terraces
Events (including receptions and banquets), cultural performances and religious services up to a maximum of 50 people
Professional flea markets and second-hand goods
The current curfew will be abolished and replaced by a ban on assemblies: between midnight and 5:00 AM in Flanders and Wallonia, and between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM in Brussels-Capital Region, you can be in the public space with a maximum of three people or with members of one's own household (people living under the same roof).
5. Two close 'cuddle' contacts at home
Also from 8 May, you can welcome two people (rather than one) from the same household into your household at the same time, not counting children up to the age of 12.
6. All people aged 65+ and vulnerable people vaccinated: a broader perspective
A new important step will be taken when almost all of those 65 and over and those suffering from co-morbidities have been vaccinated. The Belgian government anticipates a high level of immunity in these groups to be achieved in the first half of June.
If the data allows it, in particular the occupancy rate in intensive care, the "outdoor" plan will be further extended and an "indoor" plan may be considered for indoor activities, provided that the pressure on intensive care has been permanently reduced, so that quality of care is guaranteed for COVID and non-COVID patients.
7. Importance of vaccination
The Consultative Committee notes that, in some parts of the country, too few people show up for their vaccination appointment. Vaccination is the only structural exit option from the pandemic. Vaccines are safe and effective. The potential side effects are very rare and mild, especially compared to the symptoms of COVID, which are a thousand times more frequent and fatal.
"Protect your life and those of your loved ones by getting vaccinated."
You can find the original press release (in French) here.