We have taken note of the recommendations made by experts from GEMS, the group that advises the government in its strategy to fight the Coronavirus epidemic. The GEMS was mandated this Wednesday, December 1 by the Prime Minister to look into the current epidemiological situation and to make recommendations.
These recommendations will be the starting point for discussions during the new Consultation Committee scheduled for Friday, December 3, from 9 a.m.. Nothing is decided yet. It is the ministers present at the Concertation Committee who will sort through these proposals and proceed to arbitrations and compromises, as before.
A suggested set of measures
As it has previously advised, GEMS recommends that a collective effort be made in all areas, including privacy. It is necessary to rapidly reduce viral circulation “, says GEMS. For GEMS, a coherent and logical set of measures is needed to stabilize the situation and reduce the daily number of infections.
A 10-day acute chill period in schools.
This 10 day period is, for GEMS “absolutely necessary“, because we must “intervene acutely in the sector where the impact is the highest in society” and where it is observed that closures must be made “spontaneously erratically“because of the many infections among staff and students.
For GEMS, it is in primary education that it is most necessary to intervene. But as the “incidences” are also increasing in secondary education, action should be taken there too.
Aware that school closures and the organization of distance education for young children have an impact on children, their families and society as a whole, GEMS advocates a school closure period of 10 days . This is the minimum epidemiologically “significant” (i.e. 10 days, according to the average incubation period). ,
After this period of 10 days, the restart of “face-to-face” teaching could be considered, “provided that strict preventive measures are in place and that there is a minimum stabilization of the epidemiological situation“, says the GEMS.
For primary and nursery schools, GEMS recommends closing establishments and setting up home schooling for at least 10 days. A recovery would follow (subject to minimal stabilization of the epidemiological situation). Students should be self-screened (RAT) before resuming face-to-face lessons. In addition, it would be advisable to apply strict additional measures (eg: masks suitable for children) from 6 years old, reinstate screening, contact tracing and quarantine measures as on September 1, 2021 and apply measures strict rules to optimize ventilation in classrooms).
In secondary education, GEMS recommends setting up at least hybrid education up to exams, applying rules similar to those in higher education. It proposes to give the most vulnerable pupils the possibility of having access to distance education on school premises via access to computers.
Exceptions for special needs schools should apply.
In higher education, GEMS recommends installing code orange. This should imply occupancy rates of up to 20% for large groups. For small groups, occupancy rates of up to 50%. And for practical sessions, 100% face-to-face. In all cases, WITH maintaining the wearing of the mask and optimization of ventilation.
Other suggested measures concerning the youngest
For GEMS, plans to offer immunization for children under 12 years old should be a priority, as this may represent the long-term prospect of “cooling” epidemiological challenges in the education sector.
There is also a need, says GEMS, to reiterate the importance of vaccination and booster vaccination for all staff working in education and child care.
The GEMS recommends support measures for the mental health of families (including more than 20% of single parents in Belgium). Parents should not be forced to combine childcare and work / telework, says GEMS, especially for parents of children under 12. This should include for example solutions like temporary unemployment and clear messages on flexibility from employers, for example.
GEMS recommends making masks available for children. He also wants to inform parents about the current availability of “affordable” self-tests.
Besides, “strong interventions in extracurricular activities and other sectors should also take place”, and “social support measures should be planned to make the combination of home schooling + (tele) work possible for all parents “, says GEMS.
Measures proposed in the hotel and catering industry and events
GEMS experts are also targeting other areas in which additional acute measures should be maintained until beyond the Christmas / New Year period.
We are talking here about strict health measures in the workplace and maintaining teleworking in all private and public functions that can do so, as previously agreed.
For the GEMS, all Horeca activities should close at 8 p.m. Steps should also be taken to avoid crowds at all times.
All large-scale leisure, cultural, religious or sporting events (more than 200 people) indoors and in crowded outdoor venues should be suspended (this includes football and other sports competitions, Christmas markets, except very strict organization avoiding crowds like ordinary markets).
An exception would be made for small-scale shows, where the audience is seated (with a limited density allowing a safe distance with a maximum of 200 people, for example cinema, concert, play. In this case, the combination CST + distance, mask, optimal ventilation and no catering should suffice Museums could remain open.
For GEMS, all indoor extracurricular activities and all crowded outdoor activities, both for children and adults, should be suspended at least while schools are in a “cool-down” period. This would also include non-professional indoor sports activities. Professional sports could continue without an audience.
Exceptions could be made for mental health and health promotion activities (Ex: activities with PES, youth associations, etc.), provided that these activities comply with the measures mentioned above for small-seated activities. ladder.
All indoor group activities (eg associations, leisure activities, club meetings, etc.) should be suspended. An exception should be made for small-scale socially vulnerable groups (eg Alcoholics Anonymous) at the discretion of local authorities.
Steps should be taken to avoid overcrowding in stores, such as shopping with as few people as possible.
Contact professions could continue their activities provided a strict application of the wearing of a mask and the presence of optimal ventilation.
Advice for privacy
For privacy, GEMS recommends to “relocate a small, stable group as much as possible (” bubble “, private circle,” people you want to spend the holidays with “). As a general rule, GEMS suggests limiting the number of people to meet together at any given time in private life to 5 people. Try as much as possible to keep the same contacts over the coming weeks and always perform self-tests before meeting.
GEMS believes that good communication is necessary for people to truly understand the risks of getting together with a larger group in this severe phase of the wave.
Please note, these are avenues for work provided by GEMS. The Consultative Committee, which meets this Friday, December 3, will have to discuss and validate what seems appropriate.