The coronavirus barometer has been tipped over to the lower level. Code Orange in Belgium has taken effect as of today, February 18. Many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted because of this.
Omicron has proven to be a tough variant to handle. With the surge in COVID-19 cases in the past few months, officials decided to implement the coronavirus barometer. Just a few weeks ago, the country was placed under Code Red, the highest level there is.
Nevertheless, the challenge was not insurmountable. The wave of COVID-19 cases brought about by the omicron variant has peaked in the country. In the past two weeks, there has been a decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions due to the coronavirus, and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization. Not only that, the reproduction number has also decreased to a value of less than 1. This means that an individual who is positive for COVID-19 will transmit the virus to fewer than one person.
Because of this great improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the country, the Consultative Committee adjusted the current regulations. Code Orange in Belgium was implemented. The specific regulations can be found below.
Code Orange in Belgium: Hospitality Sector and Nightlife
Establishments in the hospitality sector can operate as they normally would. Their operating hours will not be limited and, as such, they can close at whatever time they decide on. At the same time, there will be no limits on the number of people that can be accommodated per table. Groups of customers, no matter how many they are, can stay at one table so that they can dine together.
Customers do not have to stay seated when eating and drinking. They can freely roam around the restaurant and mingle with their friends.
Not everyone will also be required to wear a face mask. Only the staff of the establishment will be required to do so.
Night clubs will also be allowed to operate. However, they can only utilize up to 70% of their capacity.
Code Orange in Belgium: Events
Public events, whether done indoors or outdoors, can be held at any time.
Face masks will only be required for certain situations, such as non-dynamic indoor activities. Only the staff members will be required to wear face masks if the activity is categorized as either dynamic indoor or outdoor.
Establishments still need to implement the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) for certain activities. As such, attendees must have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the virus to participate in them. In particular, these include the conduct of any indoor activity that will be attended by more than 50 individuals, and any outdoor activity that will be attended by more than 100 individuals.
Indoor dynamic events that are held with more than 200 participants can use 70% of the venue’s capacity. For both non-dynamic indoor activities and all outdoor activities, up to 80% of the capacity of the venue can be utilized.
However, if the air quality in the venue where indoor activities are held is below 900 ppm CO2, 100% of its capacity can be used. Similarly, outdoor activities can be held at 100% of the venue’s capacity if compartmentalization or crowd-control measures, done in coordination with the Local Security Unit, are properly implemented.
Weddings and funerals are still allowed.
Code Orange in Belgium: Organized Leisure Activities
Organized leisure activities held in outdoor settings will have no limit on the number of attendees.
On the other hand, organized leisure activities conducted indoors should only have 200 people at the most. Exemptions apply to sports activities, excluding sports camps, with regard to the maximum capacity. Sports activities can be held with no limits on the number of attendees.
Code Orange in Belgium: Ventilation for Indoor Spaces
Ventilation in indoor settings is of utmost importance during these times. Officials have determined a limit on the CO2 ppm and flow rate that establishments have to comply with. Specifically, it should not go any higher than 1500 CO2 ppm, a flow rate of 18 m3/h ventilation, or fresh air supply per attendee. If these values in an establishment go higher than what is allowed, they must either decrease their capacity or take other public health measures.
The cabinet of Annelies Verlinden, Minister of Interior Affairs, said that “if the indoor air quality of 1500 ppm cannot be met, a distance of 1.5 meters between tables must be provided or other measures taken so that the limit can be met from the next service.”
Code Orange in Belgium: Working Conditions
Companies can welcome their employees back into their offices. Teleworking is not required anymore. However, it is still highly encouraged to continue remote work, especially if the nature of their position can be done at home without negatively affecting the operations of the business.
At the same time, companies can physically gather their employees for team-building and other events.
Code Orange in Belgium: Shopping
Shopping can be done without complying with any public health measures previously implemented. Specifically, customers do not need to shop by themselves or in pairs. Shops can also accommodate as many clients as they can at any given time.
This also applies to fairs, street markets, flea markets, and funfairs.
Night shops can also operate until their normal store hours, as there will be no strict closing times for them.
Code Orange in Belgium: Face Masks
Starting tomorrow, February 19, anyone 12 years of age or older is still required to wear a face mask. Those younger than 12 years old can go on with their activities without wearing a face mask.
Code Orange in Belgium: Travel
Travelers coming to Belgium will only need a valid certificate that indicates their vaccination status, a negative COVID-19 test result, or recovery from infection.
The vaccination certificate will only be valid if the last dose of their primary COVID-19 vaccine regimen was administered 270 days prior to their arrival in the country. Those who have received their booster are not subject to the same requirement.
If the traveler plans to present a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test result, it should have been taken 24 hours prior to entry into the country. The validity of the test result is extended if an RT-PCR test is taken. It will be valid for up to 72 hours after undergoing the test.
Code Orange in Belgium will remain until April 27, 2022. Constant monitoring of the situation in the country will be done in order to evaluate if the current regulations need to be adjusted.