Following a meeting of the Belgian National Security Council (NSC) today (Thursday, August 20) Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has announced that the recent reinforced measures had achieved the intended results: stabilising the health situation and ‘immunising’ the start of the school year.
The PM announced a number of decisions affecting daily life:
From 24 August shopping will again be allowed in pairs and the 30-minute time limit per store will be lifted.
The maximum allowed "social bubble" (close contacts with whom social distancing may not be respected) remains at five people per household until at least the end of September. Other social gatherings remain limited to 10 people.
The maximum audience limit at events will be increased again, from 100 to 200 indoors and from 200 to 400 outdoors. Up to 50 people will be allowed to attend a reception after a funeral.
And couples in a long-distance relationship will be allowed to travel abroad to see each other from 1 September.
In the education sector Wilmès announced that all students will be able to return to school at the start of the new school year on 1 September, at all levels of education, on the basis of the "yellow code" established by the communes. The yellow code refers to a situation where the presence of the virus is still active although controlled. This system will allow a normal school week of 5 days, subject to compliance with certain health measures, such as the compulsory wearing of a mask for pupils over 12 years old and for teachers and the suspension of certain extracurricular activities in the secondary schools.
In addition to this common regime, in communes where peaks of contamination are observed, a switch to an orange colour code will then be decided by the ministers of education. This colour code implies adjustments, such as a reduced number of course days for the second and third stages of secondary education. Parents, children and teachers will be informed directly by schools.
At the higher education level, given the later start of the school year, consultations are still taking place to harmonise the rules that will apply on student campuses.
"The virus is still spreading," said prime minister Sophie Wilmès. "We know that no measure alone can eliminate the virus - we need a vaccine. The virus will continue to circulate, so we need to learn to live with it."
Wilmès stated that the estimated coronavirus infection rate in Belgium is currently 0.9, meaning the virus is in decline, but added: "We must keep up our efforts. Returning to normal today is not possible.”
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