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COVID-19: Consultative Committee gives green light to open non-essential shops and clarifies Christmas coronavirus rules

Today, the Consultative Committee discussed the epidemiological situation in our country. Despite a slight improvement in the health situation, our country is still at COVID-19 alert level four.

The Consultative Committee took the following decisions:

Reopening of shops subject to strict conditions

Non-essential shops may reopen as from 1 December 2020.

However, strict hygienic conditions apply:

  • Strict adherence to the basic rules such as washing hands, keeping your distance and wearing a face mask.
  • Preventative measures must be visibly displayed to all visitors, including staff and suppliers.
  • Hand sanitiser must be provided at the entrance; everyone entering the shop must sanitise their hands.
  • Staff must receive appropriate training.
  • Shopping must be done individually with one adult per shopping session. The company of children up to and including the age of 18 must be limited as much as possible.
  • Visits to a shop should be kept to a minimum and last no longer than 30 minutes.
  • Shops are responsible for managing the queues outside.  Shoppers queuing outside should be supervised to ensure that social distancing rules are respected. The organisation outside the shop is done according to the guidelines of the local authorities.

The conditions also relate to the maximum number of customers per square metre of accessible floor space:

  • For shops, the rule of one customer per 10 m² applies.
  • Shops with a surface area of less than 20 m² can allow a maximum of 2 customers at the same time, provided that social distancing rules are respected.
  • Large stores of more than 400 m² must provide for access control.
  • Access to shopping centres, shopping streets and car parks must be organised by the competent municipal authorities, in accordance with the instructions of the Minister of the Interior. This must be done in such a way that social distancing rules can be respected, in particular maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 meters between each person.

Museums and swimming pools may open in accordance with the protocol for their sector.

Christmas period

During the Christmas period, the social contact rules continue to apply. Singles will be able to receive both their contacts at the same time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in order to ensure their psychosocial well-being.

For gatherings outside, the rule of four continues to apply.

The curfew between midnight and 5 a.m. remains in force, as does the ban on gatherings. The sale and use of fireworks will also be prohibited.

Tighter travel control

People who have stayed abroad for more than 48 hours and will stay in Belgium for more than 48 hours will be subject to stricter controls. They must:

  • Fill in the Passenger Locator Form
  • Comply with the mandatory quarantine

All the above measures are applicable until 15 January 2021. At the beginning of January, an evaluation will be made on the basis of the medical indicators to see whether a transition to the management phase (see below) is possible and for which sectors. 

Downward and management phase

The Consultative Committee also decided to move to two phases with regard to sanitary management:

  1. A downward phase during which the infection rates are controlled as quickly as possible, with strict measures.
  2. A management phase during which sector protocols are in force. Existing sector protocols with different versions per alarm level are reduced to one protocol per sector. This protocol then applies to the management phase and prescribes how to behave in a “coronavirus-proof” society.

In order to be able to move from the downward phase to the management phase, the incidence must be sufficiently low for long enough. In addition, not all sectors will be in the same phase at the same time. This will strongly depend on the epidemiological risk of the sector in question.