Measures taken by the National Security Council of 24 April 2020

On the basis of recommendations from the Group of Experts in charge of the Exit Strategy (GEES), the National Security Council met today, Friday 24 April, in the Egmont Palace to determine the exit strategy from the corona crisis. As a reminder, the federal government and the governments of the federated states have taken a series of measures since 12 March to curb the spread of covid-19 in our country. Hopeful indicators, such as the reduction in the number of daily hospital admissions or the flattening of the mortality curve now make it possible to start phasing out very gradually. But the government stresses that the virus is still present on our territory and remains dangerous.

The strict containment measures will certainly remain in place until 3 May. Belgium could then start phasing out the measures, if circumstances permit.

Rules remain in force

It is important to emphasize that certain rules remain in force, even as were scaling down the measures. Rules such as:

  • limiting contacts between people
  • respecting safe distances
  • good hygienic reflexes, also called "barrier gestures"
Covering the mouth and nose

Covering the mouth and nose is important when scaling down the measures. This can be done using a so-called comfort mask or an alternative means of protection such as a scarf or a bandana. This is:

  • recommended in public places
  • mandatory on public transport for users aged 12 years and over. This measure will enter into force on 4 May. A mask alone does not provide adequate protection, it should be considered within the wider use of mouth masks, hygiene measures and physical distance.

The federal government and the federated states will work together to ensure that every citizen receives at least one standard fabric mouth mask free of charge that completely covers the mouth and nose. People will also be given two "filters" to put into masks that have been bought or made. Surgical masks and FFP2 masks are reserved for healthcare professionals, residential care centres, residential facilities and security services.

In the workplace, employers - also in the public sector - must protect their employees if necessary.

The authorities would like to remind you that covering your mouth and nose alone does not provide sufficient protection if the safety distances and hygienic measures are not complied with.

The use of public transport

Gradual phasing out will inevitably lead to an increase in the use of public transport. In order to avoid crowds, it is advisable:

  • to travel by your own means (walking, cycling, car, etc.) in order to give priority to those who need public transport most
  • to avoid rush hour
Work floor

In terms of work organisation, the Group of Ten has validated a generic guide to good practice. This will serve as a basis for sector or company agreements to be concluded. It will also serve as a benchmark for a progressive restarting of the economy under safe and secure conditions for all.

Phasing out strategy

All of the following dates are subject to change depending on the health situation and the evolution of the virus.

⇨ Phase 1 - a (4 May)

For industry and B2B services

Working from home is still the standard.  For example, if companies cannot meet the physical distancing requirements, they will be able to compensate by following a series of health recommendations, such as wearing a mask.

For shops and the hospitality industry

The rules do not change, except for the fabric shops, which - given their important role in the production of mouth masks - are allowed to open their doors.

For healthcare settings

In recent weeks, the epidemic has had a significant impact on healthcare provision, both in primary care and in hospitals. Working groups are already studying how to respond to the need to continue to provide the best care to people infected with covid-19 while gradually and safely expanding access to general and specialised health care. The aim is to ensure that everyone regains 'normal' access to healthcare as soon as possible and that the medical infrastructure needed to care for people suffering from the virus is not overburdened.

As far as daily life is concerned

Physical activity in the open air is allowed with a maximum of two people in addition to those living under the same roof, provided that physical distance is always respected.

It will also be allowed to practice other non-contact sports in the open air. But access to changing rooms, communal showers and cafeterias is still forbidden.

⇨ Phase 1 - b (11 May)

For shops

This phase allows all shops to reopen at the same time - without discrimination on the basis of size or industry - in order to give everyone the same chance of success. This will of course be subject to conditions. These will be determined in consultation with the industries and the social partners.

There are three types of conditions, relating to:

  • work organization
  • welcoming in customers
  • restricting access to shops to avoid hustle and bustle

Carrying out so-called contact professions (such as hairdressing, for example) is not permitted at this stage.

For everyday life

We will also clarify the future of sports competitions in the short term.

⇨ Phase 2 (18 May)

For shops

We will look at whether and under what conditions so-called contact professions can be resumed, again under certain conditions.

In the area of culture

The opening of the museums can also be considered during phase two, also under certain conditions, for example through a ticketing system.

As far as daily life is concerned

Team sports will be possible in the open air, but only in a club setting and subject to certain conditions.

In the area of education

Lessons will very gradually resume from the 18th of May. Not all pupils/students will be able to go back to school immediately.

Each Community will be responsible for implementing this decision on its own territory, in consultation with the education sector.

Also, certain possibilities will be examined, such as:

  • the ability to hold private meetings at home
  • the ability to admit more people at weddings and funerals
  • allowing more than two people to be active outdoors together
  • the possibility to organize day trips to certain regions of the country

⇨ Phase 3 (From 8 June at the earliest)

Multiple points will be examined:

  • How to organise the possible and gradual reopening of restaurants and, at a later stage, cafes, bars and the like. This will in any case have to be done under strict conditions.
  • Various summer activities such as trips abroad, youth movement camps (to be decided at the end of May), internships, tourist attractions but also smaller open-air events.

The only certainty is that mass events such as festivals are not allowed before 31 August.

Conditions to succeed

Testing and tracing will play an important role in ensuring the scale-down takes place under the best possible conditions.

As far as testing is concerned, the intention is to offer a laboratory test to all people who need it, i.e. anyone who has symptoms and who the doctor suspects to be infected, people who have been highly exposed to the virus because of their profession, and people who have had intensive contacts with an infected person.

Our laboratories will reach 25,000 PCR tests by 4 May, and capacity could be scaled up to 45,000. To support testing, both public and private laboratories as well as the federal platform are used.

As far as medical equipment is concerned, deliveries are continuing and there is sufficient stock available.

Serological tests - tests that detect immunity - will also play a role.

For tracing, a coordinated strategy will be set up between the Regions and Communities, with the support of federal experts. 

You can watch the press conference again here:

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