Belgium is relaxing its COVID-19 rules and will downgrade its coronavirus barometer — which gauges the seriousness of the crisis — from Code Red to Code Orange later this month, the government said Friday.
“Today, we are taking a huge step forward. We are returning to normalcy,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a press conference. However, he added that “it would be a mistake to believe that we have eradicated the virus.”
The switch from red to orange, to come into effect on February 18, will mean the current rules mandating home-working for the majority of the time will be scrapped — although remote working will still be recommended. Employers’ organizations and many politicians have demanded an end to the strict home-working rules.
Rules in the hospitality sector will also change. “There will no longer be a[n enforced] closing time … nor a limit on the number of people seated at the same table. Only staff will have to wear the mask,” De Croo said. Nightclubs will be allowed to open.
Events will be allowed with 70 to 80 percent capacity, depending on the type of event.
Children under the age of 12 won’t have to wear masks at school as of February 19.
The announcement came as Belgium reported a drop in COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions — cases dropped by 44 percent over the last week, while hospital admissions decreased by 18 percent.
“We will experience a much more lighthearted spring, it will be freer and more convivial,” De Croo said.
Belgium follows other European countries that have lifted coronavirus measures in the face of the Omicron variant, including Italy, Greece, Sweden and Denmark.