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Belgium sets out 'summer plan' to ease coronavirus measures from 9 June
Belgium has announced plans for a major easing of its coronavirus restrictions, starting on Wednesday 9 June with the reopening of cinemas, theatres, gyms and indoor cafes and restaurants.
The coronavirus consultative committee met on Tuesday to agree on a broad plan for the summer months, including large-scale cultural and music festivals and relaxed rules on (indoor) social contacts.
Several milestones in the "summer plan" have been set. Each phase of the reopening plan will only go ahead if certain vaccination and hospital occupancy criteria are met.
Step one, on 9 June, is dependent on intensive care occupancy falling below 500 and 80% of people with underlying health conditions having been vaccinated.
If so, cultural venues including cinemas and theatres will be allowed to reopen with a maximum audience of 200, wearing masks, and a requirement to remain seated during the performance.
Gyms, sport halls, bowling alleys and saunas would reopen, and amateur sports competitions can resume. Outdoor cultural activities can have up to 400 people in the audience, with masks.
Youth summer camps are allowed, with groups of up to 50 people. Weddings and funerals can have up to 100 participants (indoors) or 200 outdoors. Receptions following the ceremony are limited to 50 people.
Restaurants and cafes will also be allowed to serve customers indoors from 9 June, still with a maximum of four people at a table (unless a big family is dining together). Opening hours indoors will be 8.00-22.00. Outdoor terraces can stay open until 23.30.
The "indoor bubble" - currently limited to two people - will be replaced with a new rule allowing you to invite up to four people to your home (children under 12 are not counted).
Also from 9 June, the requirement to work from home will be eased. It will be possible for staff to return to their workplace for one day a week, provided there is always no more than 20% of staff present on the work floor at any given time.
The following step, on 1 July, is reliant on at least 60% of over-18s receiving at least their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
At this stage, remote working will become "recommended" instead of compulsory. Indoor events would be allowed with up to 2,000 people - and up to 2,500 outdoors.
Youth summer camps can go ahead, with up to 100 participants, and overnight stays allowed. Restrictions on shopping would also be lifted.
From 30 July, if 70% of over-18s are vaccinated, large-scale cultural and music events would be allowed again. The audience limits for events would be lifted to 3,000 indoors and 5,000 outdoors. Participants will be required to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test.
From 1 September, the goal is that all coronavirus restrictions can be lifted.
Prime minister Alexander De Croo said "giant steps" were being made in the vaccination campaign. "We are getting closer and closer towards a normal life," he said.