Answer to parliamentary questions on the decisions of the National Security Council
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Like every week, I would like to come back to the evolution of epidemiological data. This is indeed essential in the current phase-out process. Because, as you know, the next phases can only be started based on this evolution.
The positive trends of the previous days continue.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff in the health sector for their efforts.
The last few days we have seen a downward trend in hospital admissions.
We also have positive numbers in terms of ICU occupancy rates.
In general, we see a downward trend in the number of deaths caused by Covid-19. However, without doubt, these numbers that will always be too high.
The reproduction number is now 0.8. This means that one person on average infects less than one other person.
And as you know, the GEES also uses other, more qualitative indicators to determine its position, such as the availability of protective equipment for healthcare personnel, testing and tracing. The combination of all those elements determines whether we can move from one phase to the next.
The reproduction number plays a very important role, but it is not the only indicator. What is and remains very important is not only the general spread of the virus, but also our capacity to manage it.
Of course, every time we relax the containment measures further, the risk of the virus flaring up again increases. It is therefore very important that we continue to monitor the situation very closely, but also, that everyone tries to respect the rules.
As you know, the National Security Council extended with the Ministers-President decided yesterday to launch phase 2 from 18 May, phase 2 of our phase-out plan, still based on the advice of the experts, as you know.
This involves resuming classes for some pupils, a return to work for contact professions, a resumption of markets and sports training and the opening of animal parks, always provided that the safety rules are strictly complied with.
Especially as far as culture is concerned, since you mention it, you know that the cultural sector is a sector par excellence that brings people together and ensures a lot of exchanges. At a time when we are trying to limit contacts between different groups as much as possible, the phase-out process for this industry is therefore more difficult to fathom.
We would also like to remind everyone that the activities in this industry are very diverse and that there are many specific situations.
From 18 May, however, it will be possible to reopen museums and other infrastructures of cultural interest, provided that the safety conditions are strictly observed. Infrastructure of cultural interest, to us, means historical monuments or castles, citadels, etc.
While at the federal level, as you said, we have already taken many measures for artists to ensure they receive a replacement income, we have also changed the tax shelter scheme, in line with the exceptional crisis conditions. It is clear, of course, that other proposals and measures can be considered, as we know very well that certain industries, and not only the artists, there is also the hospitality industry, which I will talk about in a moment, that certain industries are being hit harder by this crisis and may be affected for a longer time because of the very nature of their activities.
Yesterday, no Tuesday, there was indeed an inter-ministerial conference, at the request of Minister Jan Jambon, for which I say thank you. An inter-ministerial conference, while this is primarily a Community competence, in which both the federated entities and the federal level have participated, I think that this too is positive.
- The aim was indeed to take stock of the situation, and also to see what each entity but also the federal level could already do before the crisis, think about the phase-out plan, we know that this is quite specific, it is precision work that we have to implement to the best of our ability and it is therefore going to take some time.
- And during this meeting we also decided that at the next inter-ministerial conferences we will be able to approve or at least discuss other topics, such as the artist's statute, as this crisis obviously sheds a new light on this matter. And it is like they say: “it's never too late to do good”.
As mentioned during the National Security Council, phase 2, starting on 18 May, will be followed by several other phases.
This will of course include elements related to culture and sports, but also social life, tourism, events or even the opportunity to profess your faith.
Of course, hospitality activities will also occupy an important place in our reflection process about the gradual restart. The hospitality industry has also been hit very hard by the crisis. This industry is certainly, certainly, certainly not forgotten. We are committed to developing a detailed plan for them as well.
We will also have to work on how to organise the summer for children and parents. This specifically includes summer childcare, youth camps and summer activities, but also turning the streets into playgrounds. We will also need to be able to strike a balance between the children's need to be able to leave their bubble for a while, their parents' need to find childcare and protecting the public health.
As you can see, and we will never repeat it enough, the exit is a special exercise, a delicate balancing act that has to take into account the desire of everyone to resume their normal lives, but also the requirements related to the health crisis we are currently experiencing. We work on it every day. As I have said and I repeat, the Regions, the Communities, the Federal Government, all work together as a team, also in consultation with the local authorities. Because, of course, we are talking about decisions that are taken by us, but which have to be applied on a local level. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank the mayors of our country for ensuring that all this is done under the best possible conditions.