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Coronavirus rules eased from 1 September - except in Brussels
Belgium will ease the rules on social contacts, events, mask-wearing, cafes and restaurants from 1 September - but not in Brussels, where vaccination rates are lagging behind the rest of the country.
The coronavirus consultative committee, which brings together representatives from the federal and regional governments, met on Friday afternoon, to discuss the fourth and final phase in Belgium's "summer plan" to ease coronavirus restrictions.
This fourth phase can now go ahead on 1 September outside Brussels, as eight out of 10 adults in Belgium have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 68% are fully vaccinated.
The rules applying to cafes and restaurants will be lifted from this date. Venues in Flanders and Wallonia will no longer have to close at 1.00, keep a 1.5-metre distance between tables or limit the number of people at each table. Ordering at the bar is allowed again. The only rule that will still apply is the requirement to wear a mask when walking around a cafe or restaurant.
At home, the indoor "bubble" which currently allows just eight people to meet inside will be scrapped.
Wearing a mask will no longer be compulsory at indoor events gathering up to 200 people, unless local authorities decide to maintain rules to the contrary. Outdoor events gathering up to 400 people can also be organised without the need for a mask or safe distancing.
These limits will be increased to 500 indoors and 750 outdoors from 1 October. Larger events can still be organised, using the Covid Safe Ticket, which requires attendees to provide proof of full vaccination, a recent negative test result or the presence of antibodies following a recent coronavirus infection.
The consultative committee agreed to allow dancing at wedding ceremonies and in cafes from 1 September - but has opted to wait until 1 October before nightclubs can reopen. Working from home will no longer be strongly recommended.
However, none of these eased measures will apply to the Brussels region until progress is made with vaccination take-up in the capital, the region's minister-president Rudi Vervoort confirmed.
Prime minister Alexander De Croo said that, despite rising infections, there had not been a strong increase in hospitalisations and the situation was "manageable". The vaccination campaign, he said, had "changed the rules of the game".