Corona exit: Bigger bubbles and return of events from 1 July


The Security Council announced the measure of Phase 4 of the corona crisis exit strategy, to come into effect on 1 July

Try not to party, OK?

Belgium will enter the next phase of the coronavirus exit strategy from next Wednesday, 1 July, the Security Council announced this afternoon.

From this date, “social bubbles” can be increased from 10 people a week to 15. This means that everyone can socialise with up to 15 different people in one week. These do not always have to  be the same 15 people. This also means that household gatherings must be limited to 15 people maximum.

Events such as theatre and concerts can take place again, with a maximum of 200 people indoors, or 400 outdoors. This limit could be increased in August to 400 indoors and 800 outdoors, depending on corona infection figures and advice from virologists. This also applies to cinemas, which will be allowed to re-open.

An online tool will be launched for event organisers, allowing them to check the rules that they must follow. This will not be available to people outside of the events sector, “so we can’t just invite 200 people into our homes,” noted prime minister Sophie Wilmès.

The Security Council is shocked by the improvised massive gatherings last weekend

- Prime minister Sophie Wilmès

Demonstrations will be allowed to take place from 1 July, with the same maximum participant limit as outdoor cultural events – 400 in July, possibly 800 in August. Protests must remain in one place: No marches are allowed.

Swimming pools, wellness centres, amusement parks and casinos will be allowed to reopen from 1 July. Conference centres and party venues may also resume their activities, with a maximum of 50 people.

Shopping with friends from your social bubble will also be allowed. The rule on going shopping alone is therefore removed, as is the 30-minute-per-store limit. The 50-stall limit on markets is also abolished.

Nightclubs will remain closed and mass gatherings – such as the after-hours parties recently seen in Brussels and Hasselt – are still banned. The 1.00 closing time for bars and restaurants is unchanged.

Wilmès addressed those street parties in her statement this afternoon, saying that participants had put themselves and others at risk, undermining all of our collective efforts up to now. “The Security Council is shocked by the improvised massive gatherings last weekend,” she said, “of which the images are still making the rounds on social media.”

The coronavirus epidemic isn’t over, she reminded the public. “This council has shown over the last few months that we are pragmatic when it comes to what is allowed and what isn’t. We must maintain that a bit longer. We must continue with the solidarity that kept us together at the height of this crisis. When I protect myself, I protect you. Yes, there are fewer rules, but they still have to be adhered to.”

‘Make the most of the summer’

In terms of the wearing of facemasks, nothing changes. They are required in public transport and recommended in shops and all other places and situations where social distancing cannot be respected.

School is expected to resume in September according to a special colour-coded plan developed by education ministers and based on the evolution of the virus. More details on that will be released shortly.

Belgium will still celebrate its National Day on 21 July, Wilmès said, but in a different way, with smaller events instead of a large-scale gathering. A military parade in Brussels will be televised live.

“Things will be a bit different this summer,” she concluded. “Even if the figures remain good, and the situation is getting back to normal, the virus is still with us. But we should make the most of the summer and enjoy our new freedoms, after a difficult period.”

Photos, from top: ©Visit Antwerp, ©Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images