Belgium delays Buitenplan and tightens regulations in the face of increasing infections
Belgian federal and state governments brought the Overlegcomité / le Comité de concertation forward to today which was originally planned for Friday 26 March. This was in response to increasing numbers of hospital admissions and infection rates. The Buitenplan to be implemented on 1 April has been delayed and further regulations will be implemented. This was announced at a press conference this evening in Brussels, given by Eerste Minister / Premier Ministre Alexander de Croo and Frank Vandenbroucke, Vice-eersteminister and Minister van Sociale Zaken en Volksgezondheid / Vice-Premier ministre and Ministre des Affaires sociales et de la Santé publique.
The Overlegcomité / le Comité de concertation notes that since 12 March the number of new infections has been rising again, at an increasing rate. The positivity ratio has also risen slightly. The increase concerns all age groups, except for the over-65s. The increase in the positivity ratio is highest in the 10-19 age group. The overall proportion of new virus variants continues to increase; they now account for approximately 65% of infections.
An increase in the number of infections and clusters is also observed in schools.
The number of hospital admissions is again showing a strong upward trend, as well as a sharp increase in intensive care units. The hospitals have now switched to section 1B of the hospital emergency plan.
"We cannot allow the planned easing to continue. We must now press the pause button to keep a perspective for the period after the Easter holidays. It is still our intention to be able to reopen the schools fully on 19 April. But then the numbers have to be better, and that is a task for everyone for the next month."
De Croo refers to the increasing number of infections and hospitalisations.
"After a year in this corona crisis, we know very well how to stop it. There is only one way, and that is to limit the number of contacts as much as possible,"
"What should we do? Limit our close contacts as much as possible. If you want to meet someone, do it outside. Even if you are not sick or have no symptoms. You can still infect someone if you think you are not a carrier of the virus."
Based on these findings, the Overlegcomité / le Comité de concertation took a series of decisions.
The Buitenplan is postponed for the time being, with the exception of youth activities (young people up to 18 years) up to a maximum of 10 people, outdoor activities without overnight stay. For children under 12 years of age, activities will preferably take place outside.
The Overlegcomité / le Comité de concertation asks the Ministers of Education to present a detailed and decisive plan by Monday 22 March to reduce the number of infections and clusters in schools as quickly as possible.
The Overlegcomité / le Comité de concertation also decided:
to postpone until after the Easter holidays the possibility for the second grade of secondary schools to have full-time contact teaching from 29 March.
to make the wearing of a face mask at school compulsory for all pupils of the fifth and sixth year of primary education from Wednesday 24 March at the latest.
Enable full-time face-to-face teaching in secondary schools only after the Easter holidays, from 19 April onwards.
Full-time face-to-face teaching should be accompanied by the roll-out of repititive screening of teachers and, in a second phase, of pupils.
Antigen tests for non-teleworkers in risk sectors
From Monday 22 March, antigen tests will be deployed in risk-sensitive sectors where teleworking is not possible.
The number of seats on trains to tourist destinations will be limited. Except on school days, only window seats may be used in trains, with the exception of children under 12 years of age.
The Overlegcomité / le Comité de concertation reiterates the importance of;
the observance of the hygiene measures in force by the population;
the strict enforcement of these measures by the police and inspection services;
the obligation to telecommute and its strict enforcement by the inspection services;
the measures taken by local authorities to avoid crowding in busy places;
The Overlegcomité / le Comité de concertation, the coronacommissariaat and the Risk Assessment Group continue to monitor the situation closely on a day-to-day basis and will meet immediately if the situation so requires.
The Ministerieel Besluit is extended until 30 April, with the exception of the ban on non-essential travel which is extended until 18 April subject to parliamentary approval of the cooperation agreement on maintaining mandatory testing and quarantine of travellers.
Photo: Frank Vandenbroucke, Vice-eersteminister and Minister van Sociale Zaken en Volksgezondheid / Vice-Premier ministre and Ministre des Affaires sociales et de la Santé publique