The consultation committee is being held this Friday morning. It has been put forward, a clear sign that everyone has taken the measure of a rapidly deteriorating health situation. The figures are there, the increase in infections and hospitalizations is higher than the most pessimistic curves sketched by the experts in the models available last week.
International coordination to analyze the figures
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has had numerous political contacts in recent hours. He also had a long discussion with Commissioner Corona to analyze in detail the epidemiological situation, in particular the situation in intensive care units and at the level of primary care (doctors). A consultation was also conducted with his Dutch and Luxembourg colleagues Mark Rutte and Xavier Bettel to discuss the health situation.
Three axes of measures
What measures will they be taken? The Prime Minister wishes to work on three axes:
- Acceleration of vaccinations / boosters
- Stricter measures to strengthen the efficiency of tracing and testing, particularly in schools
- A package of health measures, applicable from this Saturday, November 27, with the exception of measures related to events organized by professionals.
Nightlife closed, private events prohibited
The night world would once again be plunged into darkness. It is quite simply the closure of the nightclub and dance hall sector that is mentioned. It was also a recommendation of the GEMS group of experts who advise the authorities.
Bars, restaurants and all major outdoor events (such as Christmas markets) could have limited opening hours from 5 a.m. to midnight. The measures linked to events organized by professionals would not come into force until Monday, November 29, leaving an opening window this weekend.
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Restrictions, such as a limited number of seats per table, would again be imposed inside Horeca establishments. The question of public aid to these sectors will also be included in political debates. The president of the MR, Georges-Louis Bouchez has also already recalled in “Jeudi en Prime” that it is obvious, according to him, that support mechanisms were going to be reactivated.
The authorities plan to ban private gatherings outside private homes, with the exception of weddings and funerals. These receptions must respect the rules established during the last Consultative Committee (CST and gauges of 50 people indoors, 100 people outdoors).
Indoor sports competitions will now be without an audience.
Strengthen measures in schools, widespread teleworking
The education ministers are invited to strengthen measures within the school, in particular when the groups intersect (refectory type, studies, day care centers). In compulsory education, the rules governing testing or closing a class could be tightened up. Currently, from two cases in a class, all the students are tested. If there are 25% positive cases in 7 days, then the whole class goes into quarantine. These criteria could be tightened.
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The consultation committee is also preparing to ask the ministers of higher education for additional proposals in relation to the protocols in force.
Finally, almost essential to limit travel, the issue of generalized teleworking will also be on the table.
How to organize Saint-Nicolas and the end of year celebrations?
More generally, the authorities will invite the Belgians to better secure their contacts in the private sphere, in particular with vulnerable people. The return of a “social bubble” is not envisaged. Commissioner Corona, Pedro Facon, has repeatedly insisted in these preparatory documents on the importance of carrying out, for example, rapid tests before going to a large family reunion.
The (somewhat) hasty organization of the consultation committee made it impossible to organize the various usual preparatory meetings before each Codeco. Many points therefore still need to be the subject of real political negotiations.
A CST suspended in the event of high-risk contact
Finally, it is a question of relieving the first line in this 4th wave of the pandemic, general medicine. The policy for screening high-risk contacts would also be reviewed. Currently, if you are identified as a high risk contact you must be tested on days 1 and 7. Authorities are considering postponing the first test, and removing the second.
Concretely, you should only be tested, for example on day 3. On the other hand, while waiting for this test, your CST would be suspended, quarantine would however not be compulsory. Access to the tests will in particular be facilitated with centers, without an appointment.