After a nearly two-month shutdown, all shops in Belgium were allowed to open again on Monday, drawing strings of customers who readily queued up outside storefronts across the country.
Fast fashion and retail shops were one of the main draws for shoppers, with long lines spotted outside stores from clothing chains Zara, Primark or C&A.
In Brussels, customers could be seen lining up outside stores in the usually busy high-street in Chaussé d'Ixelles, while a Twitter user in Ghent pointed out that people were queuing outside a Primark as early as 8:45 AM.
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In downtown Brussels' Rue Neuve, a long street lined up with stores from the major international brands, photos showed crowds of people with face masks and police navigating the social-distance markings put up by authorities.
Discount chain stores like Action and Kruidvat were also popular among customers exiting the 8-week lockdown, with staff from a store in Aalst saying customers showed up bright and early.
"The first customers were already there at 8:00 AM — an hour before we opened," staff told HLN, while people in the queue saying they needed to buy anything from kitchenware to and gloves to decorative material.
"For me, it is really about essential things, I have just moved and need cutlery, glasses and other kitchen utensils," a 27-year-old woman told the outlet, while a 49-year-old said that she needed to buy arts-and-crafts material for her daughter's school project.
Ikea stores from across Belgium also drew customers in the dozens, with pictures shared by staff unions and users on social media showing people waiting to enter the stores in parking lots parcelled out with metal barriers and security tape.
A reporter in Brussels said that customers showed up as early as 7:00 AM to wait for the homeware store to open its doors at 10:00 AM.
In order to ensure social distancing rules are respected, stores were instructed to limit each client's visit to 30 minutes and to ensure there is a minimum of 10 square metres per customer.
Despite the queues, no overcrowding was reported in Brussels', with other commercial areas such as the Dansaert district reporting a quiet day one of deconfinement.
The Brussels Times