The Belgian government has decided to tighten its measures to stop the sharp increase in coronavirus contagion cases. The Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, made the announcement during a press conference on October 16th. Hospital admissions and deaths have risen across the country.
The country has entered the highest alert phase, called Phase 4. “The number of infections is rising every day, and very rapidly,” said De Croo. “Our doctors and hospitals are under heavy pressure. The virus is very close now. We all know people who are infected, quarantined and sometimes severely ill.” He went on to say that a positive trend in the numbers would not be seen over the next few days.
Households can invite up to 4 guests, always the same ones, changing every two weeks. The same social-distancing rules as before have to be respected. Individuals will only be allowed to have one close contact outside their own household.
Teleworking where possible will be made mandatory. In case it is not possible, everything has to be done to make sure people can work without incurring risks.
Bars and restaurants will be closed for four weeks, but after two weeks, the measure will be re-evaluated. Restaurants may continue to offer takeaway meals until 10:00 PM. A support package will be offered to the businesses affected. A ban on selling alcohol after 8:00 PM is also now effective.
Food markets may stay open following the pre-established safety procedures. Christmas markets, winter villages and flea markets, have not been authorized for the time being. Up to 40 people are allowed to attend funerals and the gatherings organized thereafter
A curfew between midnight and 5:00 AM has been established. Individuals are not to leave their homes unless for essential purposes.
“Some will call these measures unfair. The virus is also unfair,” said De Croo. “It affects all of us, but most of all it affects the most vulnerable. The next few weeks will be very difficult. But if we want to prevent worse, we must take action now.”
The protocols for sport and culture remain unchanged for the time being. An evaluation will be done by Friday, October 23rd. For other indoor gatherings or events, a maximum of 40 people remains the rule.
“We must do everything we can to ensure that hospitals can continue to provide the right care for everyone,” said Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. “The children must be able to continue to go to school, companies to operate. People must not fall into isolation.”
A study conducted last month by Stepstone & KU Leuven unveiled that 8 in 10 employees felt socially isolated during the Corona crisis. A second stage of the research, revealed that one in four of respondents fears they will soon lose their job. Half worries about negative changes in job content in the near future.
Almost half of the surveyed employees (48%) worried about potential aspects of their job changing in a negative way due to the Covid crisis, but without fearing actual job loss.