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Home-working, Covid Safe Ticket, masks - Belgium tightens coronavirus rules as winter approaches
Belgium has made working from home compulsory again, as part of a range of new measures aimed at stopping the fourth wave of coronavirus.
The remote working requirement applies to all private sector companies and public bodies, unless the nature of the job makes it impossible.
It will still be allowed to return to the office one day per week. An electronic register should be kept to ensure that the rules are followed and that not every employee is in work on the same day.
From 13 December, compulsory home-working will be scaled back from four to three days per week.
The coronavirus committee met on Wednesday afternoon - two days earlier than planned - as new infections now exceed 10,000 per day and intensive care occupancy has broken the 500 mark.
Another change relates to the Covid Safe Ticket, which grants access to events and restaurants and provides proof of full vaccination, a recent negative PCR test or recent recovery from the virus.
In venues where the Covid Safe Ticket applies, wearing a mask will be compulsory, except when eating, drinking or practising a sport.
This means masks must still be worn at the cinema, a nightclub, theme park or attending an event with more than 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. It is highly likely that the Covid Safe Ticket will be required at Christmas markets, which are still allowed to go ahead.
The minimum age for wearing a mask indoors has been brought down from 12 to 10, although the rules in schools differ, with each of Belgium's language communities free to decide whether 10 and 11-year-olds should wear masks in class.
Regional ministers for education and employment have been asked to ensure that CO² meters are rapidly installed in schools and large business premises.
The committee has also confirmed that all fully vaccinated people in Belgium will be offered an extra dose of the vaccine in due course. Children aged five to 11 will also be offered the vaccine as soon as the European Medicines Agency gives its approval.
"We all hoped that autumn would be easier and that we would have a winter without corona," said Belgian prime minister De Croo. "We must stay vigilant."
He reminded the public of the importance of limiting social contacts as much as possible this winter - and, where possible, meeting up outdoors.
The consultative committee is due to meet again at the beginning of January.
Photo: Benoît Doppagne/Belga