Today (6 January 2022) the Belgian Consultative Committee took stock of the COVID19 epidemiological situation and the health and safety measures required. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Belgium is resulting in a sharp increase in the number of infections and, therefore, it was decided to maintain the current measures. The Committee also discussed the medium-term strategy.
The latest scientific data indicates that the Omicron variant is three to four times more contagious but perhaps less pathogenic compared to previous variants. This is already reflected in a rapid increase in the number of infections (+79% last week) and an increase in hospital admissions (+20%). Intensive care unit occupancy continues to decline, but less so than in the previous week.
In view of the current situation, the Committee concludes that it is preferable that measures remain in force. These are outlined below.
Teleworking remains compulsory, at least four days a week. Only one return day can be scheduled per week, with a simultaneous presence of a maximum of 20% of the staff.
Team buildings and other activities that require a physical presence in the workplace, both indoors and outdoors, remain prohibited.
Meetings, Activities and Events
The restrictions or closures in force concerning certain gatherings, activities and events - for example, in the hospitality industry, nightlife or sporting and cultural life - continue to apply.
The Committee confirms the planned reopening of education from 10 January. This means a return to full-time face-to-face education in nursery, primary and secondary schools, and part-time in arts education. The following preventive measures must be observed:
- permanent ventilation
- wearing a mask is compulsory from 6 years old
- compliance with testing and quarantine measures. Classes will be closed from four infections (symptomatic children) in a class
- meetings continue to be organised online
- the mixing of classes in common interior spaces (study room, dining hall, etc.) should be avoided as much as possible
- day trips are allowed in accordance with the rules in force in the establishment
- extra mural activities with an overnight stay are suspended
The Committee calls on parents to test their children using self-tests whenever possible.
With regard to higher education, the Committee invites the Ministers of Education, in collaboration with the education sector, to assess the basis on which (additional) preventive measures in higher education can be organised from 10 January.
Testing and quarantine measures
The Committee took note of the decision of the Ministers of Public Health who have modified the testing and quarantine policy*. This change will take effect on 10 January.
This new testing and quarantine policy places more emphasis on self-tests. These self-tests are available in supermarkets and pharmacies. People who are on benefits will be able to buy self-tests in pharmacies for just 1 euro (4 self-tests maximum per person and per 14-day period).
Medium-term strategy and barometer
The Committee also examined the preparatory work of the COVID-19 Commission on a medium-term strategy and the Corona barometer project. The COVID-19 Commissioner has been tasked with refining and developing the barometer.
In terms of testing:
- Workplace testing is abandoned
- High-risk asymptomatic contacts are no longer tested (except for self-tests). Symptomatic high-risk contacts will continue to be tested under current guidelines
- Incoming travellers will continue to be tested
- Departing travellers should retain the option of taking a RAT or PCR test depending on the demand of the destination country. These tests are still possible in all test contexts, not just in airports, etc
In terms of quarantine:
Fully vaccinated high-risk contacts should not go into quarantine but should apply strict preventive measures (mouth mask (preferably FFP2), distance, no contact with vulnerable people, etc.) for up to 10 days after treatment. A fully vaccinated person is someone who has received their booster vaccine, or who received the last dose of their baseline vaccination no more than 5 months ago, or who has had a certificate of recovery no more than 5 months ago. Young people between the ages of 12 and 17, who have received their basic vaccination regardless of the date of vaccination, are considered fully vaccinated.
Partially vaccinated high-risk contacts should go into quarantine for 7 days; From day 4, the quarantine can be lifted on condition of carrying out daily negative self-tests and strictly applying preventive measures (mouth mask (preferably FFP2), social distance, no contact with vulnerable people, etc.) up to 10 days after their high risk contact. A partially vaccinated person is someone who received the last dose of their primary vaccination more than 5 months ago and who has not yet received their booster vaccination.
High-risk, unvaccinated contacts should enter quarantine for 10 days; From the 7th day, the quarantine can be lifted provided that daily negative self-tests are carried out, and that preventive measures are strictly applied (mouth mask (preferably FFP2), distance, avoidance of contact with vulnerable people, etc. until 10 days after high-risk contact.
Children aged 5 to 11 have the status of the adult with whom the child currently reside. This means that the child will have to follow the same quarantine rules as this adult, i.e. if one of the adults is subject to quarantine (or isolation), the child is also subject to quarantine.