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What’s life like in Brussels right now?

Professionals moving to Brussels in the coming weeks will want to know what to expect with the reopening of the country. After a somewhat strict lockdown the deconfinement process started in May and is entering an increasingly relaxed status. Since the 15th of June, Belgium along with its European neighbors opened its borders to EU and Schengen passport holders. Life in Brussels is slowly going back to “normal”.

With the steady improvement of the pandemic numbers, the kingdom is entering Phase 4 of the relaxation of its rules, called “deconfinement” as of 1 July.

1 July: What to expect

People in Brussels today continue to wear masks when in public transport in accordance with the rules, mask wearing in the street is less frequent. The atmosphere is increasingly relaxed, but outdoor groups of more than 10 people are not allowed so some parks have seen an increase in oversight from park wardens. Safety distances in more crowded areas are enforced.

Restaurants

Restaurant terraces are full as are cafés and bars. Night life is active however all venues have to close at 1am. Night clubs remain closed. There are news reports of youth gathering to on the Place Flagey for spontaneous parties – so the confidence is back for the younger segment of the population.

 

Shopping Rules

Shops are relaxing rules and everything is open. Shopping times are no longer limited and you can shop with a friend. Safety measures are in place to ensure distancing can be respected within the shop. Masks are recommended but not obligatory inside shops.

Gyms

Wellness centers and gyms are open since the beginning of June with protocols in place for hygiene. Pools are also open which is handy as Brussels is experiencing a significant heatwave!

Entertainment

Cinemas and indoor events can host up to 200 people. Museums, galleries and music halls have gradually reopened. Outdoor festivals are allowed with a maximum attendance of 400 people. This means that most music festivals join the infamous Tomorrowland in rescheduling their festivals for 2021.

Administration

People moving to Belgium from abroad often need to register at the local town hall, called the Maison Communale/Gemeente Huis. There are also other administrative procedures for health care, registering for parking etc. New registrants can no longer walk in to take care of these services. They must make an appointment. To do this at the town hall for Morton Place residents you should follow this link: https://irisbox.irisnet.be/irisbox/appointment

 

Moving forward: long live bicycles!

The most exciting consequence of the pandemic has been the acceleration of the mobility plans in Brussels. Increasing the biking lanes and the go slow and no traffic areas is needed as traffic is congested and people are still cautious about taking public transport. Our neighborhoods in Saint Gilles and Chatelain will benefit from this plan, allowing our residents to bike easily  from home to the European Quarter on dedicated bike lanes.

 

What’s happening at Morton Place

Most of our residents have  gone back to their offices spending only a portion of their time working from home. Weekend trips have also started again. We continue to get requests from people outside of Belgium who are moving to Brussels for professional reasons. We are organising video tours and trying to make sure everyone gets to chat with one resident during the tour. There is enthusiasm and confidence in future residents’ voices and we feel confident that we will be able to host future Morton Place residents in comfort and security. We look forward to hosting new residents at Morton Place over the course of the summer!

Morton Place Coliving

What to Expect when moving to Brussels today

Many of our future residents are considering when to schedule their move to Brussels after weeks of lockdown or as we call it here “confinement”. We have gathered some of the information we have found the most relevant to help you understand the current situation.  The next udpate is scheduled for 3 June. We will publish again at that time to keep you aware of the rules.

 

Travelling to Brussels from Abroad

Before travelling to Brussels we recommend contacting the local representative of the Belgian government for details on what may be required, especially if you do not have a Belgian residency card. As of now and most likely until 3 June’s update, anyone arriving from abroad needs to self isolate for 14 days when arriving in the country.  Feedback from our residents who have returned to Brussels from France and Italy and who have Belgian residency cards has been positive, they had no questions asked and were handed a flyer. At the airport a representative requested they self-isolate for 14 days but that trips to buy essentials and daily exercise was allowed. This is of course anecdotal and each person may get a different reception.

 

State of the pandemic

The number of new cases is going down with an “R” rate for the week of 14-20 May of 0.89. (source Sciensano weekly update) If you want to know more about the spread of the virus and how the Brussels region has been effected we recommend  reading the Belgian Health Ministry’s Public Health website which has all of the official figures.

 

Easing of restrictions or “deconfinement”

The peak of illness was the week ending on 12 April 2020 and the government announced easing of lockdown restrictions as of 4 May 2020 when Belgium entered Phase 1 of deconfinement. As of 25 May we are in Phase 2 with the following situation:

  • Face masks are obligatory in all public transportation but not in shops
  • There are no public gatherings of more than 3 people and there is a police presence to discourage groups
  • Shops are open including retail and markets
  • Hairdressers and nail salons are open
  • Doctors (GP’s) are allowed to practice normally
  • Sports are allowed with a cap of 20 team mates
  • Weddings and funerals not to exceed 30 people
  • Schools are partially reopened

 

Phase 3 is expected as of 8 June. We are expecting news on the opening of restaurants, cafés and places of worship.

 

Life In Brussels: Cycling paths and “slow” streets

Brussels has quickly pivoted to improve cycling and walking paths in the city. The historical inner city of Brussels (500m from Morton Place) has a blanket “slow street” designation with all traffic limited to 20km an hour with a priority for walkers and cyclists. Within weeks 40km of new cycling paths have opened up with an additional 40km in the works for September. We were particularly excited to see that a large, comfortable path will be reinforced along the inner ring linking Morton Place Parvis and Louise to the European Quarter. For an updated cycling map: New Cycling Paths

 

Life at Morton Place

 

Along with the rest of Belgian households the confinement at Morton Place has also eased  and our activities are almost back to normal. We have a sanitation station at the entrance of each house for the proper disposing of masks and gloves as well as hand sanitizer for anyone walking into the house. We will be welcoming new residents  as of 8 June when we expect most rules regarding the confinement to be lifted.  Although there is some relief at this return to some freedoms, there is also nostalgia for what has been a time of real bonding and friendship among housemates. From celebrating Easter by preparing dishes representing their countries of origin, to a traditional South African braai, pizza nights playing Settlers of Catan and endless deliveries of disinfecting spray and hand soap… what’s not to miss?