Europe

Belgium to begin relaxing coronavirus restrictions on May 4

Government hopes to start reopening schools on May 18, prime minister says.

The European Parliament

Belgium will start to loosen its coronavirus restrictions starting on May 4, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said at a press conference Friday.

“We’re coming out of seven weeks of enormous sacrifices on a human, social and economic level. Now is the time to look to the future,” she said. “We can do so because the figures show that we were able to slow down the spread of Covid-19 in Belgium. But the virus hasn't disappeared yet. It’s is still present and dangerous for the population.”

Certain shops that sell fabric and some companies will be allowed to reopen if they are able to respect social distancing, she said. Outdoor sports without physical contact will be allowed. The wearing of face masks will be mandatory on public transport.

In a second phase, starting from May 11, all shops will reopen under conditions that are yet to be determined.

The government hopes to gradually reopen schools as part of a third phase on May 18. For primary and secondary schools, classes will resume for a maximum of three grades, with small groups. Priority will be given to the first and second years of primary school, as well as the last years of secondary school. Kindergartens will remain closed until at least the end of May.

The government is also looking into other measures in that third phase, such as the opening of hairdressers, limited gatherings home and day trips within the country, but will decide on these later on.

In the phase starting June 8, the government will consider the gradual reopening of restaurants and “in a more distant timeframe,” the reopening of bars.

Each phase will only be confirmed one week in advance based on the spread of the virus and hospital capacity.

“We want try to give you as many clear perspectives as possible, but guarantees are impossible,” Wilmès said.

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