On Wednesday,3 June, the Belgian National Security Council (NSC) approved the transition to phase 3 of the deconfinement plan, starting on 8 June, thanks to the encouraging data from Belgian health authorities.
The new rules, announced by Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, mark a radical change in approach compared to the rules in force at present: now freedom is the rule and prohibitions are the exception.
The activities which remain prohibited do so because they involve either too close contact between individuals, or are mass gatherings or because protocols / specific rules for a sector have not yet could be defined.
This new approach can be understood on two levels. First, individual behaviour (what behaviour should I adopt when faced with these freedoms?) And secondly, the regulatory framework that applies to an organised activity (which protocols are implemented by professionals to organise an activity?).
So what can we do from 8 June?
1. Regarding individual behaviour, there are six golden rules:
- Hygiene measures remain essential;
Outdoor activities should, as far as possible, be favoured. If necessary, for indoor activities, the rooms must be sufficiently ventilated;
Additional precautions are necessary with persons at risk. A charter is being prepared for senior volunteers to provide them with a little more clarity as to the activities they can practice safely;
The safety distances remain in effect except for people in your household, for children under 12 years of age, and for people with whom you have closer contact, in other words the ‘extended bubble’. If necessary, you should to wear a mask;
You can now have closer contact with 10 different people per week in addition to your household (this is the ‘extended bubble’ referred to above). This is an individual right and you can change the people in your ‘bubble’ every week;
Group meetings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people, including children. This applies to all meetings, regardless of whether they take place at your home or outside it (e.g.in the park or restaurant).
2. About the regulatory framework:
All organised activities resume, unless the restart is planned in another phase, with protocols that protect both users and staff. These protocols are determined by the competent minister and on the advice of the Expert Grooup during consultations with the sector and in the case of north-south matters, with an inter-federal approach;
The protocols will be evaluated by July 1. If no protocol exists for a sub-sector, a document will be made public in order to give the general rules which must at apply as a minimum;
It is recommended that people continue to telework wherever possible.
The hospitality, sports and culture sectors are the major sectors for which important decisions have been taken and the new rules are detailed below.
This sector may partially reopen. However, the games rooms (for example casinos), the banquet and reception rooms can only reopen on 1 July. Regarding banquet and reception rooms, this will be possible with a maximum of 50 people present, under the same conditions as catering. Nightclubs will not be allowed to open until the end of August to avoid unsafe social distancing.
Apart from these exceptions, all other catering establishments such as cafes, bars and restaurants will be opened again, in accordance with a very precise protocol.
The main features of this protocol are:
A distance of 1.50 m between the tables;
A maximum of 10 people per table;
Each client must remain seated at his own table;
Waiters must wear a mask;
All food establishments, including night shops, can remain open until 1:00 a.m.
From June 8, cultural activities without an audience can resume. Performances with the public - including cinemas - may resume from 1 July, but always according to specific rules relating to audience management, such as respecting safety distances for the public and a maximum of 200 people present.
The organisation of activities should be planned in such a way as to avoid large gatherings, for example, outside the auditorium.
When people participate in cultural activities, and also leisure activities, the wearing of a mask is always recommended.
Sports and, now also cultural activities organised and supervised by a manager are limited to 20 people in June and 50 people in July, in order to respect social distances.
In these two above sectors the very gradual reopening and the associated conditions will make profitability more difficult. At the federal and regional level, in addition to extending or adapting generic measures to support the economy, the government is working on a series of targeted measures to help certain sectors.
From 8 June, contactless sports activities may resume, whether indoor or outdoor, exercised as an amateur or at a professional, competitive and training level. The gyms and fitness areas can also reopen, subject to respecting the protocol.
Contact sports (for example judo, boxing, football, etc.) must always be limited to training that is "contactless";
With regard to sports infrastructure, the protocols must also be followed. Changing rooms and showers will still not be accessible;
Swimming pools, saunas and wellness centres should remain closed at this stage.
Note that as far as sport is concerned, everything will be allowed again from 1 July on condition that the protocols are respected.
Whether in the cultural sector or the sports sector, a maximum seated audience of 200 people will be allowed from 1 July, respecting safety distances and protocols.
Religious or philosophical cults can resume from 8 June under the following rules:
The safety distance must be respected with a maximum of 100 people present;
From July, this number of people will be extended to 200, in parallel with the cultural and sports sector;
Rites that involve physical contact are prohibited.
From 8 June, it will be possible to go on an excursion for one or more days in Belgium.
From 15 June, Belgium will reopen its borders to and from the European Union, including the United Kingdom, and the other four Schengen countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway). Please note, however, that each country alone decides whether or not to open its borders. Therefore, to find out the situation in your country of destination, it is advisable to consult the Belgian Foreign Affairs website. Conditions for travel outside Europe have yet to be determined in the light of the progress of discussions at European level.
Leisure and relaxation
Leisure and relaxation activities are authorised from June 8, with the exception of conferences, amusement parks and indoor playgrounds, which cannot resume until 1 July.
In the case of cultural and leisure activities, these must be organised to avoid mass gatherings and wearing a mask is always recommended.
Gatherings (for example fairs, village festivals, etc.) will remain prohibited until 1 August and may then resume gradually. However, major mass events will remain banned until 31 August, as previously announced.
An online assessment tool will be made available at the beginning of summer for organisers who wish to find out about the possibility or not of organising an event and what conditions will apply.
Phases 4 and 5 of our deconfinement strategy will take place in July and August, if the epidemiological conditions allow.
Read the original statement (in French) here.