Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a press conference that shops can open again on December 3. (Stores deemed non-essential were closed on November 2). However, people must go shopping alone and can't stay in one store for more than 30 minutes. The new measures will apply until January 15.
On Christmas Eve, the start of curfew, currently 10 p.m., will be pushed to midnight. Households can invite one extra person over to celebrate Christmas, and people who live alone are allowed to invite two guests. No such relaxation of the rules will be applied on New Year's Eve, and fireworks will be banned.
Winter trips and journeys to red zones are strongly discouraged. There will be more controls at the borders to make sure quarantine is respected and the so-called passenger locator form is completed. De Croo said he was in touch with the Swiss and Austrian governments to ask for a closure of ski resorts, a measure both those countries are against.
"If we take ill-considered measures, we will jeopardize everything we have put in place over the last four weeks," said De Croo. He added that Christmas should not be "the beginning of a new catastrophic year."
The announcement comes amid tension within the Belgian government between ministers who wanted a relaxation of measures and those who wanted to keep the current restrictions in place.
The interior minister, the Flemish Christian Democrat Annelies Verlinden, warned last weekend that police could enter houses on Christmas Eve “if necessary, in case of noise pollution, for example.”
On Wednesday, David Clarinval, the minister in charge of small businesses, said the reopening of businesses and restaurants was a "matter of life and death."