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Coronavirus in Belgium: The latest developments

05:17
Last update: Saturday 25 September. Recent updates are in bold

What's the latest?

Wallonia will require people visiting a cafe or restaurant (indoors) to present proof of vaccination (or a recent negative test, or recent recovery from Covid) from mid-October. The Covid Safe Ticket will be compulsory in the hospitality sector, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and other cultural events - as well as when visiting care homes. The measure should come into force in about 20 days, once the legal framework is in place, and will run until the end of year, unless the coronavirus situation in the region significantly improves before then. Children under 16 are not affected, except over-12s visiting a relative in a care home. All the venues where the Covid Safe Ticket applies will no longer require people to wear a mask. "Everyone is free to choose whether to be vaccinated or not," said minister-president Elio Di Rupo. "But those who are vaccinated also have rights. The Covid Safe Ticket will not be required for everyday trips such as going shopping, going to school, taking public transport. But for more collective activities where there are a lot of people, it is necessary."

The directors of about 40 theatres, cinemas and cultral centres in Wallonia have written an open letter criticising the introduction of the Covid Safe Ticket. Patricia Santoro, director of the association of Francophone cultural centres, said: "We can understand the interest of the Covid Safe Ticket in certain situations. But for us, it completely goes against our mission of opening up culture to all. It requires us to discriminate between visitors. We have protocols that have been in place since June - wearing a mask, ventilating spaces well. We were promised that the test events would allow us to be able to operate with no more restrictive measures. And now we learn, when the culture season has just started, that we will once again have to add additional constraints."

The mayor of Liège, Willy Demeyer, plans to open several coronavirus testing centres in the city, offering free tests. The infection rate in Liège currently stands at 1.11 - meaning the virus is spreading - while the nationwide average is a decline of 0.94.

The 62nd edition of Batibouw will go ahead, in real life, at Brussels Expo from 19-27 February, organisers have announced, using the Covid Safe Ticket system. A digital-only version of the event last year did not go as well as planned, with several technical glitches.

The employment rate in Belgium's cafe and restaurant sector is back up to broadly the same level as it was pre-coronavirus, according to analysis by human resources provider Acerta, based on data from 2,500 businesses. The number of jobs in the sector has been climbing steadily since April and is currently just 1% below the level seen in August 2019.

An agreement between Belgium and Luxembourg on cross-border work during the coronavirus crisis has been extended until at least the end of this year. Belgium signed bilateral agreements with all of its neighbouring countries when the crisis began, guaranteeing that cross-border workers continue to be treated in the same way for tax purposes, even if they are working from home and thus no longer present at their workplace in the other country.

Temporary measures allowing cafes and restaurants in the City of Brussels to expand their outdoor terraces on to pavements - and in some cases car parking spaces - have been extended until the end of October. A fast-track procedure to seek permission for an expanded terrace was introduced at the start of the summer, to help maximise customer numbers outdoors as the sector reopened. Bigger terraces will be allowed again from April to September next year, but cafes and restaurants will have to reapply for permission.

An interministerial committee has agreed to relax the rules on quarantine for under-12s. Children will only have to stay home from school if several infections within the same class are reported in a week. Until now, the time period covered was two weeks. Children can return to school as soon as they receive a negative test result. The committee has also adopted the Superior Health Council's advice to start offering a third dose to the most vulnerable, starting with those over 85.

The Walloon government will decide "on Thursday or next week" whether to follow national guidelines and lift the requirement to wear a mask in shops, restaurants and cafes from 1 October. Flanders is in favour, Brussels against. Walloon minister-president Elio Di Rupo said: "There are several viewpoints. Personally I think the situation remains dangerous, but I know my opinion isn't shared by everyone." He would prefer to wait until vaccination rates reach 95% before relaxing the current rules.

The governor of Liège province has introduced new local coronavirus restrictions, including the closure of night shops at 1.00 and reinstating a minimum distance between tables in restaurants. Working from home remains "strongly recommended". The coronavirus situation in Liège province has been described as "worrying".

The Belgian Academy of Pediatrics has asked authorities to remove all anti-coronavirus measures for children under 12, such as quarantine and testing. The academy described the measures as "more damaging than the virus itself".

A reduced VAT rate to help cafes and restaurants after the coronavirus shutdown will expire on 30 September and not be extended, finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem has confirmed. A flat rate of 6% VAT was applied to the hospitality industry in May. Normally, VAT on drinks is 21%. This allowed cafes to increase their profit margins while keeping prices unchanged.

Belgium's federal government has announced it will lift the requirement to wear a mask in shops, restaurants and cafes from 1 October - and allow nightclubs to reopen. But the relaxed rules on masks are likely to only apply in Flanders, as both Brussels and Wallonia have indicated that they will maintain the existing measures. Read all the details here...

Read more about how Belgium's current coronavirus measures affect you, sector by sector, in our handy guide here, updated regularly.

Latest trends - Saturday 25 September

Over the past seven days

  • Average daily infections: 2,020 (+1%)
  • Total infections: 1,233,723
  • Test positivity rate: 4.6% (-0.3%)
  • Infection rate: 0.88 (-9%)
  • People vaccinated (at least one dose): 8,552,077
  • Average daily deaths: 5.7 (-22%)
  • Total deaths: 25,554
  • Average daily hospital admissions: 55.3 (-9%)
  • In hospital: 662 (-7%)
  • In intensive care: 210 (-1%)

Is there an official Belgian website to get the latest information?

There are two, in fact - www.sciensano.be and www.info-coronavirus.be - plus a freephone helpline: 0800 14 689. You can be on hold for some time.

Written by The Bulletin