'Cowardly': Belgian coastal mayor sticks to 1 May to open terraces

'Cowardly': Belgian coastal mayor sticks to 1 May to open terraces
Credit: Belga

The mayor of one of Belgium's coastal towns announced that he will stick to the 1 May opening date for the terraces, despite the Consultative Committee's decision to wait another week.

After Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that terraces could reopen - one week later than initially planned - from 8 May, the mayor of Middelkerke, Jean-Marie Dedecker, said that he would not wait that long.

"The terraces here can reopen on 1 May. I am tired of walking behind a carrot, like I'm a donkey," he told VTM News. "The light at the end of the tunnel always turns out to be an approaching train."

Such statements, however, are "particularly cowardly," said Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.

"It is easy to say 'I do not care anymore'," he said, stressing the importance of solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. "We are all in this together."

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"If you make agreements between governments, then you assume that the mayors will also help to apply those agreements," said Vandenbroucke.

During the Easter holidays, Dedecker also made headlines across the country as he placed terrace tables along the seafront, where customers could consume their takeaway meals and drinks - against the rules.

According to him, opening the terraces along the coast will provide more safety and will make sure people are more spread out. "It is a matter of public health," he said on Wednesday, adding that he will look into how everything will be handled over the coming two weeks.

In the meantime, the governor of the West-Flanders province, Carl Decaluwé, also made it clear that Dedecker does not have the right to go against the decisions of the Consultative Committee.

"A mayor should execute the decision of the Committee," he said on Flemish radio. "If he chooses to tolerate terraces that are open against that decision, there is no other option than federal intervention. The federal police will intervene, and the owners of the establishments will be fined heavily."

Additionally, while Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon said that he understands that Dedecker is "tired of it," he urged all mayors to respect the decisions that were made at the Consultative Committee.

"For me, [the reopening] could have been 1 May, too. But let us, the people who have to take responsibility, not start playing games," he said on Flemish television. "1 May or 8 May, it is not like that is a world of difference."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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