Consultative Committee tightens preventive health measures against omikron variant
Today, the Consultative Committee discussed the epidemiological situation in our country and finds that the omikron variant is on the rise. Therefore, the Consultative Committee is taking a cautious approach and is tightening protection measures as of Sunday, 26 December.
The Consultative Committee notes that the number of infections has declined leading to a slight decrease in the pressure on healthcare. Nevertheless, 693 ICU beds are still occupied by corona patients.
Meanwhile, our country, like others, is facing a new reality: the rapid advance of the new omikron variant, which is already responsible for 27% of infections in Belgium. This new variant is much more contagious than the previous variants and will be the dominant variant in our country by early 2022.
Given the high infectivity of the omikron variant, extreme caution is advised.
Importance of booster vaccination
Vaccination remains the best protection against seriously illness from the coronavirus, especially the booster provides additional protection against the omikron variant. Nearly four in ten (37%) adults have already received their booster, and the Consultative Committee wants all adults to get the opportunity to get their booster by the end of January.
To slow the spread of omikron, limit the impact on hospitals and not jeopardize the reopening of schools after the Christmas vacations, the Consultative Committee has adopted a series of additional protective measures effective from Sunday, 26 December.
- No relaxations
The current rules decided at the 3 December Consultative Committee remain in effect, including the face mask requirement (from age 6), the requirement to work from home (with a maximum of one day of working on-site) and closing the catering industry at 11 PM (no exception for Christmas or New Year).
- Ban on indoor events and activities
All large-scale indoor events are banned. This also applies to Christmas markets, winter villages, cultural and other performances, and conferences held indoors.
Indoor spaces in the cultural, festive and recreational sectors will also be closed, with the exception of:
- Libraries, game libraries and media centers
- Organized activities focused on the needs of vulnerable groups, especially sociocultural activities, continuing education activities and youth activities framed by professionals
- Party and reception rooms, only for weddings and funerals
- Wellness centers, including saunas, tanning beds, Jacuzzis, steam machines and hammams.
Cinemas, laser games, bowling alleys, escape rooms, paintball, snooker, darts and billiards rooms and indoor trampoline parks must also be closed.
The sports sector remains open, including fitness and swimming pools. Recreational sections of swimming pools and subtropical pools must close, as must indoor areas of amusement parks and zoos. Sports camps can only take place without overnight stays.
- Stricter rules for outdoor events
For outdoor events, there will be stricter rules to prevent crowding:
- Prohibition on use of tents and other covered areas for visitors
- Maximum one visitor/4m2
- From 100 visitors, one-way circulation plan with separate entrances and exits.
- Sports matches without an audience
The presence of spectators at professional and non-professional sports competitions and training sessions is prohibited, both indoors and outdoors.
- Safe shopping
Shopping can be done with up to two people (excluding minors from your own household). One visitor is allowed per 10m2 of retail area. A distance of 1.5 m must be ensured between shoppers. If the retail area is greater than 400m2 appropriate access control measures must be put in place.
- Mandatory working from home
Working from home remains mandatory, with at most one return to work day per week.
- Celebrating Christmas safely
The Consultative Committee recommends continuing to limit the number of contacts even during the Christmas period and encourages the use of self-testing. Ventilate indoor areas and wear a face mask. Are you feeling ill? Then stay home.
Given the positive recommendation from the Superior Health Council and the Advisory Committee on Bioethics, the Consultative Committee also asked the Task Force on Vaccination to begin vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 as soon as possible on a voluntary basis.
The Consultative Committee recommends the use of FFP2 masks for vulnerable people. Recent scientific studies seem to show that the omikron variant lingers longer in the air than earlier variants.
The Consultative Committee will reassess the epidemiological situation in the first half of January.