Corona update: Slew of openings next week, including bars and restaurants


While cinemas and saunas must wait another month, restaurants and fitness clubs can welcome customers back on 8 June

Summer terrace, here we come

The federal government’s National Security Council has announced the measures for Phase 3 of Belgium’s corona crisis exit strategy. Progress towards normal life takes a big leap forward in this phase, with restaurants allowed to open and the ability to travel within Belgium.

Businesses now closed that can open on 8 June include bars, restaurants and fitness clubs. Social circles can also be increased from four to 10 people, and church services can resume.

Residents can now also travel inside Belgium wherever they want for one or more days, and international borders will be opened on 15 June. Travel is restricted to countries within the Schengen area. Travellers should check with destination country regulations, of course, before making plans.

Performance spaces, cinemas, stadiums, amusement parks, saunas and swimming pools cannot open next Monday; they must wait until 1 July. A maximum of 200 people will be allowed inside seated spaces, and social distancing must be respected.

Dance clubs and concert halls without seating must remain closed until the end of August. All large-scale events – such as music festivals – are also still banned until the end of the summer.

Social distancing still the norm

Of course businesses need to follow strict rules when it comes to social distancing. Bars, for instance, must provide table service; customers are not allowed to order or gather at the bar. Staff in bars and restaurants must wear facemasks, and no more than 10 people are allowed at any one table. Tables must be 1.5 metres apart. Bars and restaurants must close by 1.00, as must night shops.

Fitness and sport clubs must keep shower rooms and swimming pools closed. There should be no physical contact during athletic training. Sport events, whether amateur or professional, can take place once again, though spectators are only allowed to attend from 1 July.

Church services must restrict the number of parishioners to 100. That number can increase to 200 on 1 July.

People who can work at home are still encouraged to do so. While all primary school pupils returned to school this week, secondary schools are restricted to pupils from specific years.

The government also increased the previous “bubble of four” to a bubble of 10 – and it can even change weekly. This means that everyone can see 10 people outside of their household every week, and it does not always have to be the same people. Gatherings of no more than 10 people are also allowed – whether at home or in a public place.

Prime minister Sophie Wilmès reminded residents to stick to what she called the Six Golden Rules of Phase 3:

Hygiene: Wash your hands regularly, use hand gel

Activities: Try to keep them outside. If they are inside, ensure proper ventilation

Risk groups: Take extra precautions with people from high risk groups, such as those over 70 years of age or with underlying conditions

Social distancing: Keep doing it. Exceptions are with children under the age of 12. While it can be difficult to maintain social distancing with your bubble of 10, do not shake hands, hug or kiss (quite yet)

Social bubble: Limit it to 10

Groups: Maximum 10 people. Not 11, not 12. 10.

Belgium’s measures to control the spread of the coronavirus have worked “even better than expected,” said Wilmès during the press conference this afternoon. “These excellent results are the direct result of our collective effort.”

Figures for hospital admissions, intensive care beds and deaths have fallen consistently since the end of April. There are currently 819 people in hospital with Covid-19. Of these, 172 are in intensive care. In total, 9,522 people have died in Belgium from complications due to the virus.

The Security Council emphasises that should figures begin to increase, some measures could again be taken to slow the spread of the virus. “Next Monday is not the finish line,” said Wilmès. “Steps still need to be taken in July and August. We have not turned the page on the corona crisis yet. But normal life is nearly close enough to touch.”

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