The surprising method Belgium is using to permit social gatherings again
The proposal is just one of many to have been drafted up by the GEES – a panel of experts tasked with developing the country’s lockdown exit strategy. The details were outlined in a leaked memo first shared by Belgian newspaper Le Soir, but the proposals are not due to be formally discussed until this Friday, so they are still subject to change.
As such, further details on how the 10-person rule would be enforced are scarce.
But the GEES reportedly said it might be possible for such gatherings with friends of family to be permitted in a fixed group on the weekends.
Other measures regarding leisure activities, work and school are also outlined.
From May 4 some non-essential trades including construction, wholesale trade, manufacturing and transport would be allowed to resume under the proposed rules.
But teleworking (presumably meaning working from home) would still be mandatory wherever possible.
On 18 May, a partial re-opening of schools would be rolled out.
For primary schools, children in years six, one and five – in that order of priority – would be permitted to return.
For high schools, only final year students would return, and only for one or two days per week.
But kindergartens would remain closed, the GEES said.
And in terms of leisure activities, parks and playgrounds would be permitted to reopen. Plus, certain outdoor sports with a maximum of two people taking part, such as golf and tennis, could be allowed.
But despite the permitted gatherings of up to 10 people, the GEES said restaurants and cafes should remain shut.
And in general, vulnerable people such as the elderly or those with medical problems should remain isolated.
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The GEES said its recommendations can only happen if social distancing is maintained, including the availability of face masks and the implementation of certain workplace protocols.
The proposed guidelines are to be delivered to the Belgian National Security Council today, and discussed on Friday.
It remains to be seen whether the measures will be approved, or whether certain parts will be changed to meet approval.
Other topics including a decision on summer weddings are also said to be awaiting discussion.
Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has expressed regret that the GEES’ report was leaked before it could be formally discussed, the Brussels Times reports.
She said: “The challenges that lie ahead are too great to present unvalidated information lightly.”
Prime Minsiter Wilmes noted that the guidelines are not final, adding: “The answers will come on Friday; not before.”
Belgium has reported 41,889 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 6,262 deaths and 9,433 recoveries, according to data presented by Worldometer.
The country reported 170 new daily deaths on Tuesday, up 145 from Monday but still down from weekend figures.
The country’s discussions on easing lockdown restrictions may see it join other European nations including Austria, which recently said it would allow bars, restaurants and churches to reopen on May 15 if cases did not surge again, according to Reuters.
And Denmark has allowed hairdressers, tattoo parlours, beauticians, dentists and opticians to reopen, the BBC reports.
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