One European country is allowing for people to gather in small groups these holidays, but there’s a catch that is very peculiar, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Up to four people are allowed to brave the cold and celebrate the holidays outside in Belgium, but hosts will have to pick their favourite guest this year as only one guest is allowed to use the bathroom.
As Belgium loosened restrictions this week to allow for Christmas shopping, there are still rules surrounding social gatherings, the Washington Times reported.
Under the new rules, shopping has to be done alone or with a minor or a dependent person. Time in a shop is limited to half an hour. Restaurants and bars remain closed, according to the Associated Press.
Four people are allowed to gather, but they must do so outside, and the same rule applies for Christmas.
This means visitors are not allowed inside to get a drink or go to the bathroom, with the exception of one person.
“You are not allowed to go through an interior space first, because then there is a risk that many people will be together in a small space,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said on De Zevende Dag, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.
A spokesperson for the minister then explained what the other three guests would have to do if they needed to use the bathroom.
“So if you really have to go to the toilet, there will be no other option than to return home," said the spokeswoman told Het Nieuwsblad.
Non-essential shops reopen in Belgium as virus numbers drop
Belgium, host to the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union, has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic.
Belgium has reported more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus during two surges in the spring and the fall.
Non-essential shops in Belgium reopened on Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining daily coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions. Few overcrowding incidents were reported.
The government had been fearful that the change might lead to massive gatherings in the nation’s most popular shopping centres and streets.
Over the weekend, pre-Christmas light festivals already led to crowded scenes in several cities, prompting warnings from virologists about the dangers of reopening too soon.
But even if lines were long outside some multinational chains, there were few people in smaller shops and in provincial towns. Still, for many it was a joyous day.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.