Message from the Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmès.
During today’s National Security Council meeting, Wednesday 15 April, several decisions were taken. As always, these decisions are based on the advice of scientific experts.
At this meeting of the National Security Council, in consultation with the ministers-president, the decision was taken to extend the containment measures currently in force up to and including 3 May.
To make this extension of the measures more bearable, we have also decided the following:
- Do-it-yourself stores and garden centres will be able to re-open, under the same conditions as food stores. Social distancing will need to be respected.
- We will also allow residents of residential facilities – i.e. rest and care homes or centres for people with disabilities – to be visited by a pre-designated person. The condition is that the person in question has not shown any symptoms of the disease in the past two weeks. It must always be the same person. The residential facilities will be able to organise these visits themselves. These rules will also apply to people who live in isolation and are unable to move around.
The basic rules will remain unchanged until 3 May and must be followed strictly. The public order services will continue to monitor this. A new National Security Council meeting will be organised next week with the aim of developing the next step in phasing out the measures. Our goal is to organise this from early May. It must be clear that this will be a gradual process based on the advice of the scientists. This strategy will be based on several pillars, namely social distancing, large-scale screening as well as tracing, and the development of new rules to be applied in the business world.
It is clear that wearing a face mask – even a so-called comfort mask – will also play an important role in the phase-out strategy. We have received an initial report from scientists and both federal and regional health officials. It tells us that, in line with the phase-out of the measures, fabric masks will be recommended for any situation where social distancing cannot be maintained. In order to do so, a collective effort will be needed, including the start-up of national production. However, face masks cannot replace the hygiene measures or social distancing.
In the short term, the National Security Council will give its opinion on the analyses and proposals of the group in charge of the exit strategy, including the right timing and conditions for the gradual re-opening of shops and catering establishments, as well as on the approach to schools, internships, youth movements and travel. It has already been established that mass events such as festivals cannot be organised before the end of August.
As regards the business community, the current rules will continue to apply until such time as the protocols can be ratified on a sector-by-sector basis. The aim of these protocols is to enable companies to resume their normal activities as soon as possible, while also guaranteeing adequate working conditions for their employees, adjusted for the situation. Working from home should continue to be preferred for some time to come.