Corona update: Museums and hair salons can open next Monday


A number of businesses and attractions can open on 18 May as part of Phase 2 of the corona crisis exit plan

Flurry of openings next week

The National Security Council announced today that Phase 2 of the corona crisis exit plan will go forward as planned and also extended previously announced measures. Specifically, all museums and animal parks in Belgium can open from next Monday, as can all hair salons and other personal care businesses.

Phase 2 of the exit plan, which begins next Monday, 18 May, includes the re-opening of schools for a portion of pupils. As Flanders wanted to re-open the schools on Friday, 15 May (as a test-day) and Wallonia on 18 May, the decision was made to officially open the schools on 18 May with the previous Friday used as a test day should a school choose to do that.

According to Flemish education minister Ben Weyts, about half of all schools are planning to start on Friday. Schools that do not feel they can conform to the required safety measures – number of pupils per classroom and hygiene, for instance – do not have to open. According to Weyts, this only amounts to about 1% of schools.

Big week coming up

Today the Security Council added several more measures to Phase 2, including:

  • All hair salons and other personal care services can re-open. No walk-ins are allowed; customers must schedule appointments. Salon staff must wear facemasks and ensure that social distancing between customers is respected.
  • Museums and monuments can re-open if tickets are sold in advance online or via telephone. Museums must operate under the same conditions as supermarkets in terms of the number of visitors in the space at any given time.
  • Zoos and animal parks may re-open, with a circulation plan in place. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time online. Both Antwerp Zoo and Planckendael animal park in Mechelen have announced that only season pass holders will be allowed in for the first two weeks. On 1 June, the rest of the public is welcome.
  • Outdoor markets can restart, with a maximum of 50 stalls. Circulation plans must be mapped out and social distancing respected. All stall-holders and personnel must wear facemasks.
  • Weddings and funerals are limited to 30 guests
  • Amateur sport training can take place out of doors via sport clubs, with a coach present and no more than 20 people training at one time

Prime minister Sophie Wilmès added that teleworking should remain the norm for those who can do that. All previous measures remain in place, such as the rule of four when visiting others and only traveling short distances to take part in outdoor activities such as walking or cycling.

She also emphasised that the ongoing relaxing of measures would only continue if the number of hospital admittances and patients in intensive care units continued to decline.

“Every time you change something, there are risks,” said Wilmès. “That’s why we always say these are the plans. If we see that we are evolving towards a worse situation, we will slow down the exit strategy. Public health comes first, always.”

Phase 3 of the exit strategy is planned for 8 June, but what that will entail isn’t yet known. Wilmès said that the situation with bars and restaurants as well as travel within Belgium and over the border will be under discussion for that date. More phases will follow Phase 3, she confirmed.

There are currently 2,014 people in hospital with complications due to Covid-19. Of those, 420 are in intensive care, the lowest number since 23 March.

Photo ©Charlotte Gekiere/BELGA