“Get Out! Move!” Belgium relaxes lockdown for lazier nation

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium is taking the next step in its relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown on Monday and is also telling people: get up! Schools are opening up to more students, markets are setting up again and museums are the reopening their doors. And the snip of a barber’s scissors fills the air again.

Schools went through a dry run on Friday, but primary and secondary classes are resuming for real on Monday, though with a limited number of pupils to make sure that social distancing can be fully respected. In many cases, though, distance learning through laptops remains the order of the day.

“It is a bit weird feeling, but it is ok, I can see that the school is well-organized, well-equipped for the safety of our children,” said Eliana Luboko, mother of 12-year-old Diego at the Les Magnolias primary school in Brussels. Across the country, kids were gingerly taking steps in school playgrounds, running around even as teachers sought to ensure social distancing.

That is the kind of activity that the government wants to see among adults now.

A major study by the public science institute Sciensano involving over 40,000 participants said that during the lockdown, twice as many adults had succumbed to a sedentary lifestyle as two years ago. A total of 56.1 percent said they were sitting or at rest for more than 8 of their waking hours. On average, adults are now sitting or resting 8.6 hours during their waking day compared with 5.8 hours two years ago.

A quarter of respondents said they had gained weight while locked inside, with the oven churning out homemade pastries breads and other recipes from long-forgotten cookbooks.

“These are unusual circumstances, but better times are ahead for your weight,” said Prof. Steven Van Gucht, of Sciensano. With the relaxation of lockdown measures “there are more possibilities to move about and do sports outside.”

“Take your chance. Get out! Move!” Van Gucht said, adding that people should heed social distancing advice.

Open-air markets can also start selling plentiful spring fruits and vegetables amid the sunny spring weather.

And zoo animals, without visitors since March, will have all eyes on them again as parks can reopen. Museums, too, will reopen, Both will have a strict reservation system in place to avoid any overcrowding.

Barbers can also resume work, even though Monday used to be their traditional day off. Both barber and client will have to wear protective masks.

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