Strict measures to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic have been in place in Belgium since early November 2020, when the second wave of the pandemic hit Belgium hard. Some of the restrictions have been relaxed over time, notably the reopening of shops in December 2020 and hairdressers in February 2021. Additional restrictions have also been imposed, such as when non-essential international travel was forbidden in January 2021. Overall, the restrictions have remained quite strict for the entire period. For example, Belgian households have been allowed to host only one guest at a time since early November 2020, Christmas and New Year's Eve included. A curfew (midnight - 5am) has also been in place since the autumn. These measures have prevented a third wave of the pandemic from hitting Belgium for several months, while allowing schools to remain open most of the time. Yet, in March 2021, the spread in Belgium of the so-called ‘UK variant’ of Covid-19 led to a substantial increase in Covid-19 cases and in entries into hospitals, reigniting fears of saturation of Belgian hospitals.
On 25 March 2021, Members of the Belgian Federal Government and Members from the Government of the Belgian Regions and Communities convened in the Consultative Committee (Comité de concertation/Overlegcomité) to discuss the situation and consider new restrictions to reverse the trend and keep the pandemic under control. The restrictions were later enacted in the Ministerial Decree of 26 March 2021. The adopted measures have been applicable since 27 March 2021. The following is an official summary of the measures:
Outdoor gatherings with a maximum of 4 people
Groups of up to a maximum of 4 people (not including children up to the age of 12) can meet outside. Large families (more than 4 people) are allowed to travel with more people.
Non-essential shops by appointment
Non-essential shops may only receive customers by appointment. The maximum number of customers allowed inside simultaneously depends on the size of the shop and is capped at a maximum of 50 people irrespective of size. Two people from the same family may enter the shop together.
Home deliveries and click-and-collect remain possible provided that there is no physical contact, and the shop is not entered.
Essential shops (e.g. food shops and pharmacies as well as shops for hygiene products, clothing fabrics, flowers and plants, telecom stores, newsagents and bookshops) may continue to receive customers without an appointment.
Closure of non-medical close-contact professions
Non-medical close-contact professions must close. This includes:
- beauty salons;
- non-medical pedicure salons;
- nail salons;
- massage parlours;
- hairdressers and barbershops;
- tattoo parlours and piercing salons.
Youth and education
Full-time face-to-face education (primary and secondary schools, part-time arts education, higher education and continuing education) is suspended between 29 March and 2 April 2021 (i.e. the start of the 2 weeks Easter break).
Between 29 March and 2 April, childcare will be provided for those people who are unable to work from home and for people who are unable to find childcare. Children shoud return to schools full-time after the Easter break on Monday 19 April.
Youth camps and extra-curricular activities for schoolchildren remain possible, with groups limited to a maximum of 10 people without an overnight stay.
Stricter monitoring of teleworking
There are increased and stricter controls on mandatory teleworking. Employers must keep a record of who will be present in the workplace and when. Public administrations must also comply with the teleworking obligations.
Non-essential travel remains prohibited
Non-essential travel remains prohibited during the Easter holidays. Controls at the borders are tightened.
The number of participants for static events on public roads is limited to 50.
These measures are applicable until 25 April 2021. They apply in addition to existing restrictions, such as the limit on receiving guests and the closure of cafes and restaurants. The Federal Government has made it clear that it will keep adapting the measures (one way or another) following the evolution of the situation.TWEET