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Coronavirus: Belgians allowed to socialise again - but only with same four people

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Belgium has relaxed lockdown rules to allow small get-togethers
Belgium has relaxed lockdown rules to allow small get-togethers   -   Copyright  EURONEWS
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People in Belgium have been gathering in small groups again after the government eased the country's COVID-19 lockdown.

Under the new measures, people are allowed to meet up with a maximum of four others that are not from their household.

But the four they meet up with must remain the same until further notice - meaning people have had to make tough decisions about who they choose.

Euronews went to Carla Mauricio's flat in Brussels as she was preparing to have friends over for the first time in more than eight weeks.

Originally from Barcelona, Carla works for an EU science organisation.

“This marks a new phase of the deconfinement and I was very much looking forward to it of course, and even more so (towards) the new phases of deconfinement," she said.

She and her boyfriend provide hand gel on entry for the two friends they have invited over. The four friends sit at the furthest four corners of the table, respecting the 1.5-metre social distancing rules.

Announcing the relaxing of measures on May 6, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said she understood the pressure that confinement had put on people.

The prime minister's orders are that "every family may receive a maximum of four people - always the same people - at home. To limit the number of contacts and to prevent the spread of the virus, visitors can only meet with one family."

The government is warning people to proceed with caution, saying a new spike in infections could mean that they have to reintroduce stricter rules.

“We lost one of our friends. He went from healthy to dead in six days. If that’s not enough evidence to just chill and wait, I don't know what is.”
Bob Eck
Bruges resident

Xavier Noel, Professor of Psychology at Brussels' ULB University, warns that it will be very difficult to reverse these measures:

“I would be worried about how people will consent to isolation once again and I think our government agrees with that and is aware of that.”

Not everyone in Belgium has been so eager to immediately get together with their friends.

Bob Eck, who lives in the Flemish city of Bruges, says his personal experience with COVID-19 means he won’t come out of lockdown until the pandemic is actually over.

“We lost one of our friends," he said. "He went from healthy to dead in six days and we saw firsthand how quickly things can occur. And if that’s not enough evidence to just chill and wait, I don't know what is.”

Belgians are beginning to reunite with one another, but the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and public health experts are warning that the loosening of measures across Europe is likely to lead to a second wave of infections.