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Shops can reopen on 1 December - but no change to social contact rules over Christmas
Belgium has allowed non-essential stores, museums and swimming pools to reopen from Tuesday 1 December - but will not relax the current rules on social contacts for the Christmas holidays.
The coronavirus consultative committee, bringing together representatives from the federal and regional governments, met on Friday afternoon to discuss how the current measures should evolve over the winter months.
It is the committee's last scheduled meeting until mid-January, when a further relaxation of the rules could be discussed if hospitalisations fall below the rate of 75 per day and daily infections fall below 800.
Non-essential shops, which have only been allowed to offer click-and-collect since 2 November, can reopen on Tuesday, in time for the busy Christmas shopping season, with strict limits of one customer per 10m² of retail space. The smallest stores, measuring less than 20m², can accept no more than two customers at any time. Large stores must have a security guard at the entrance, counting people in and out.
Shopping must still be done alone, unless accompanying a vulnerable person or children, with a maximum 30 minutes per store. Transactions that require longer than 30 minutes, such as ordering a new kitchen, must be done by appointment.
Cafes, restaurants, cultural venues, theme parks and businesses requiring close physical contact with customers - such as hairdressers, beauty salons and massage parlours - will remain closed until the measures are reassessed in mid-January, so a pre-Christmas haircut is sadly off-limits.
There will be no Christmas relaxation to the rule on close social contacts. You can still only invite one person to your home - always the same person. This close contact is someone with whom you do not have to respect a 1.5-metre distance or wear a mask. If you live alone, you can invite two people to your home at the same time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The late-night curfew in Wallonia and Brussels - currently from 22.00 to 6.00 - remains in place until 13 December. A decision could be taken to relax the curfew on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, bringing it into line with the Flemish curfew from midnight to 5.00, but this has yet to be confirmed. The sale and letting off of fireworks is prohibited. Outdoor get-togethers remain allowed, up to a maximum of four adults.
Belgium will reinforce its border checks, to ensure people entering Belgium have filled out the Passenger Locator Form and will respect the necessary quarantine period if required.
"We need to keep up the efforts we have made in recent weeks. Even though the situation is improving, it remains serious," said Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo. "There are still too many infections. The virus prefers the winter - we're all indoors, we get out less."