The Belgian government has published an amended list of industrial sectors considered essential and allowed to continue operating during the coronavirus crisis.
The list was approved last week by the Group of Ten, which brings together representatives of employers and employees, and was published in yesterday’s edition of the official government journal, the Moniteur Belge.
One of the sectors added to the list is textiles, including the lingerie manufacturer Van de Velde, which has switched its production to medical equipment such as face masks and hospital aprons.
Also notable among additions to the list are retailers of basic supplies for babies, which will be allowed to open under the same conditions as those businesses currently allowed to stay open – food shops, pharmacies and newspaper shops, which have to limit the number of customers allowed on the premises at one time, and enforce social distancing rules.
The businesses listed as essential are excused certain of the conditions applied to other businesses, such as teleworking. The sector of essential businesses has seen a massive increase in the number of temporary workers taken on – a more than 50% increase in some cases, while the temp sector as a whole has seen a drop of about 50%, according to the sector federation Federgon.
But the extension of the list is not welcome news to all. The RTBF reports on the reaction of one retailer of baby supplies, who is now concerned at the health implications for staff and customers alike.
“Of course we can impose hygiene measures and restrict access to a certain umber of customers, but for the time being, the risk of contamination is simply too great,” said one shop-owner in Sint-Truiden.
“We would rather keep the doors closed for now, and deliver orders to people’s homes.”
The retailers are also faced with the possible loss of the premium offered by the regional governments for shops that are forced to close under current rules – €5,000 by the Walloon government and €4,000 in Brussels and Flanders.
“The premium is perhaps not vital for the major retailers, but it is for smaller local businesses. As far as we are concerned, it was never really necessary to include baby shops in the list of essential businesses.”