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Red Alert: The Coronavirus Barometer in Belgium Begins this Friday

The coronavirus barometer will take effect on Friday, January 28, 2022. 

Alexander De Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium, said that the surge in cases brought about by the omicron variant is not just a wave, but a tsunami. However, the severity of the disease with the omicron variant is not as bad as that due to the delta variant. This puts less strain on the healthcare system, enabling it to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients. 

This comes as good news after years of dealing with the pandemic. However, the country is still not completely out of the woods just yet. The elderly, those with comorbidities, unvaccinated individuals, and other at-risk populations are still more likely to become hospitalized and need intensive care services. 

De Croo looks forward to the day when the country and the rest of the world can move on from the pandemic and treat it as an endemic disease. Until that day comes, the government still has to create regulations so that everyone is prepared for whatever changes will come about due to the COVID-19 virus. The implementation of the coronavirus barometer is intended to do just that. 

Announcement of Coronavirus Barometer
Alexander De Croo, the Prime Minister of Belgium

The Three Phases of the Coronavirus Barometer

There are three phases to the coronavirus barometer; namely, yellow, orange, and red. 

The phase at which the country will be in is mostly dependent on the occupancy rate of intensive care units and the number of hospitalizations. The exact figures are found below:

  • Code red: 150 new hospitalizations occurring in one day, and 500 patients in the intensive care unit due to COVID-19
  • Code orange: 65 new hospitalizations in one day, and 300 patients in the intensive care unit due to COVID-19
  • Code yellow: any new hospitalizations and COVID-19 patients in intensive care units that fall below the thresholds in the preceding phases

De Croo wants to clarify that the coronavirus barometer will be used to guide the Consultative Committee in making decisions regarding the regulations to be implemented. It will not be automatically applied based on just the numbers mentioned above. Rather, other factors will also be considered, such as the social well-being of the general public.  

The Consultative Committee will still analyze the situation in the country at any given time and ultimately decide on what phase of the coronavirus barometer should be used. 

The regulations will affect the events, organized leisure activities, and hospitality sectors. Pedro Facon, the Corona Commissioner in Belgium, said that the regulations are a result of their analysis of the situation in the past 18 months and discussions with the involved sectors. 

Belgium will be in Code Red beginning January 28, 2022

As the implementation of the coronavirus barometer begins, the country will be in code red. This decision is based on the observation of the surge in hospital admissions. 

Both indoor and outdoor events are allowed to be conducted, with a maximum of 200 attendees. These will also include theaters and football games. All are required to wear face masks. The Covid Safe Ticket is also required if there are 50 participants in an indoor event and 100 participants in an outdoor event. 

Nightclubs and dance parties, considered dynamic events, will still not be allowed.  

Venues that can accommodate large groups of individuals are allowed to utilize as much as 70% of their capacity. Spaces with more than 900 pp C02 can utilize 100% of their capacity.

Businesses categorized as those in the hospitality industry can operate until midnight, which is one hour longer than the current regulation of operating until 23:00. Only six people at a table are allowed, and the Covid Safe Ticket should be used for indoor dining, regardless of the number of people. If the activity is conducted outdoors, the Covid Safe Ticket must be used if there are 100 people involved.

Weddings, funerals, organized activities, and overnight camping can be held. Youth clubs and associations, which are under organized activities, can have as many as 80 participants if held indoors and 200 participants if done outdoors.   

Activities done indoors will also be allowed to operate again. These include playgrounds, bowling, snooker, billiards, casinos, amusement parks, animal parks and gardens, swimming pools, trampoline parks, paintball, laser games, escape rooms, and arcades. 

The four-day work week, use of face masks, and shopping individually or by twos will continue to be implemented under code red. 

The Consultative Committee will conduct a meeting again three weeks after the implementation of the coronavirus barometer to assess any changes in the COVID-19 situation in the country

Other Changes in COVID-19 Regulations

The Covid Safe Ticket Utilized in Belgium

Individuals in Belgium can also expect changes in the regulations regarding the Covid Safe Ticket

Starting March 1, 2022, a booster dose is needed for an individual’s Covid Safe Ticket to remain valid. This will be applicable to adults who have completed their primary immunization with the COVID-19 vaccine for more than five months. As such, everyone who received their 2-dose regimen before October 2021 is required to take their booster by March. Children below 18 years of age are exempted from this regulation since there are no booster doses available for them yet.

De Croo stressed the importance of the Covid Safe Ticket at this time. Despite some groups opposing its implementation, De Croo believes that the COVID-19 vaccine remains one of the resources that the country can use to get out of the pandemic. The Covid Safe Ticket serves as a motivating factor for citizens to take their COVID-19 vaccine as it allows them certain privileges to enjoy a more normal life. 

He assures everyone that the use of the Covid Safe Ticket will not be a permanent requirement in their everyday lives. When the country reaches the yellow code on the coronavirus barometer, the Covid Safe Ticket will not be used anymore. The country would then have moved from a pandemic to an endemic.

Two years into the pandemic, the country is looking forward to enjoying more of what has been previously restricted. The situation’s unpredictability is being managed by preparing for various possible scenarios and ensuring that there are regulations in place to guide decision makers and the general public on what to expect. With this, everyone can move towards having a normal life. 

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