Stricter Corona measures implemented with the Ministerial Decree of 18 March 2020: What if you don't comply?

Updated on Tuesday 24 March - 12pm

On 23 March 2020, the Ministerial Decree regarding urgent measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID–19 has been published in the Belgian Official Journal. The decree repeals the Ministerial Decree of 18 March 2020 by extending the scope of key sector businesses and essential businesses through its annex. The Ministerial Decree of 23 March 2020 is effective as of its date of publication (Monday 23 March 2020) and remains into force until 5 April 2020 (included). The police will ensure compliance with this decree, if necessary, by using of force and coercion.

The following measures apply:

  • Closing of all shops and commercial businesses (“handelszaken”/ “commerces”) except for food stores, night shops, pet food stores, pharmacies, newspaper kiosks, service stations, fuel suppliers, hairdressers (limited to only one customer at a time and by appointment).
  • Supermarkets may allow maximum 1 customer per 10 m² for a maximum period of 30 minutes and cannot grant any sales or discount actions. Food stores in general and night shops are subject to specific opening hours.
  • Markets are forbidden, except for those indispensable for food supply in areas that do not have any commercial food infrastructure.
  • Social distancing by maintaining 1.5 metres between each person at all times.
  • Close of establishments of cultural, festive, recreational, sports and catering sectors (except for hotels but not their restaurant).
  • Meetings, school excursions, youth movements activities, religious services are forbidden (except for activities in an intimate or family setting and funeral ceremonies, an outdoor walk or physical activities with family members living under the same roof with respect to a distance of 1.5 meters between each person).
  • It is forbidden to be on the public road and in public places, unless for necessary and urgent reasons (such as to having access to ATMs, post offices, medical care, to provide assistance and care for elderly persons, minors, disabled persons and vulnerable persons, to carry out professional travel, to commute).
  • All non-essential travel out of Belgium is forbidden.

As for businesses (other than shops and commercial businesses), different regimes apply depending on whether the business is considered as essential or as non-essential:

  • For non-essential businesses: Teleworking is compulsory to the extent it is possible based on the function of the employees. If teleworking is not possible, companies must take the necessary measures to apply social distancing rules, including a distance of 1.5 metres between each person. This rule also applies to transport organised by the employer to commute. If non-essential companies are unable to comply with these measures (i.e. if both telework and social distancing are impossible), they must close down.
  • For essential businesses: they have to apply teleworking and social distancing as much as possible.

The annex to the Ministerial Decree explicitly mentions that essential businesses are (among others):

  • The Constitutional Court;
  • Nurseries and schools and permanent healthcare institutions;
  • Pharmacies;
  • Hotels;
  • Taxi services, public transport services, railway transport, air transport;
  • The companies active in the production of personal hygiene products;
  • Cleaning service companies, maintenance and repair services for the other key sector businesses and essential businesses;
  • The insurance sector.

The full text of the Ministerial Decree dated 23 March 2020 including the list of the essential businesses can be found here.

Non-respect of abovementioned measures by individuals can be punished with prison of 8 days up to 3 months and/or with a fine of 208 EUR to 4,000 EUR. Non-respect by legal entities can be punished with a fine of up to 48,000 EUR. Also, repeated violations of the above rules by non-essential businesses can result in a closure of the business.

Do not hesitate to contact Jessica Xiong  or William Timmermans for further information.

The above information is merely intended as comment on relevant issues of Belgian law and is not intended as legal advice. Before taking action or relying on the comments and the information given, please seek specific advice on the matters that are of concern to you.

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