How the Coronavirus is affecting Belgian daily life

How the Coronavirus is affecting Belgian daily life
The demand for mouth masks has become so large that pharmacists said they could no longer keep up. Credit: Wikicommons/Belga

The coronavirus (Covid-19) has affected the daily life of people in Belgium, and in the rest of Europe, with airlines cancelling flights, big sports events being postponed, and people being asked to stop shaking hands.

Airlines scrapping flights

Many airlines have also cancelled all or some of their flights to the risk areas. Ryanair scrapped up to 25% of its flights to and from Italy for three weeks, and Brussels Airlines is reducing their offer by cancelling 30% of their flights to Northern Italy, namely to and from Milan, Rome, Venice and Bologna from 2 to 14 March, as well.

Face masks and hand sanitisers are out of stock

The demand for mouth masks has become so large that pharmacists said they could no longer keep up. Suppliers and manufacturers, as well, say they have been out of supplies for a while. The same scenario seems to unfold for the hand sanitiser.

Carrefour, for example, saw a 300% increase in sales of hand sanitisers over the past few days, reports Het Nieuwsblad.

No handshakes, no kisses

The Minister for Public Health, Maggie De Block, has advised against shaking hands or giving kisses several times. Duma, a company in the West Flanders province, has even put up posters asking their employees to respect the handshake ban.

De Block has repeatedly asked sick people to stay at home, so as not to infect others.

Volley Vlaanderen, the Flemish volleyball federation, has asked its members to not shake hands with referees or the players of the opposing teams before and after their games.

In the American NBA basketball competition, players have gotten the same guidelines, with the additional recommendation to stop high fiving and fist-bumping fans.

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Supermarkets stopped providing taste tests

Several Belgian supermarkets and stores have taken measures against the coronavirus. For example, Hema, Albert Heijn, Delhaize and Colruyt, will no longer provide 'taste test' dishes in their stores. "We want to be sure," said Hanne Poppe of Colruyt, reports Het Belang van Limburg.

"Coffee and wine will still be there, but chips or cheese cubes, for example, will no longer be available. Given the circumstances, we think that's better. When this is over, we will restart it," she added.

No more holy water at church entrances

The Catholic Church in Belgium is also taking precautions against the coronavirus. The Belgian bishops asked their communities to closely follow the guidelines given by the authorities, but they have also taken some additional precautions.

There will no longer be holy water when entering and leaving the church, and the Sacramental bread will no longer be placed on the tongue.

Public authorities closed and big events cancelled

Many public authorities are also shutting their doors to due precautionary measures.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament announced that it made the decision to close its doors to visitors over the next three weeks.

Additionally, the Louvre in Paris closed on Sunday, but reopened on Wednesday around lunchtime. "Legitimate concerns" of employees in the face of the spread of the virus in France, the management of the Louvre stressed that the "top priority" is "to ensure the safety of staff and visitors" while indicating that "at present, the recommendations of the competent authorities recommend the opening of museums," reports the Belga press agency.

In Italy, several football matches have been played behind closed doors or without an audience, and others have been postponed.

In Formula 1, the calendar has also been adjusted as the Grand Prix of China in Shanghai, which was originally planned for 19 April, has been postponed indefinitely.

The World Championship indoor athletics, which would normally also take place in China from 13 to 15 March, has been postponed for a year.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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