Practical Measures: Lockdown hits real estate, evictions and football

Practical Measures: Lockdown hits real estate, evictions and football
Credit: Belga

Belgium's latest coronavirus measures may have only come into effect late on Sunday, but Monday already saw some practical implications of the lockdown come to light, as different sectors adjust to the new rules.

So from face mask checks and real estate to football and concerts, here's the first - and likely not the last - practical impact roundup of the coronavirus measures in Belgium.

Supermarkets seal unsellable items

While many stores across Belgium will have to close, those which remain open have been told to not sell certain products in the name of fair competition. Supermarkets are therefore not allowed to physically sell clothing, multimedia and toys, which has prompted Carrefour to completely seal the racks with non-essential goods.

Evictions not suspended during second lockdown

Evictions will not be suspended during the second lockdown, according to the cabinet of the Flemish Minister for Housing, Matthias Diependaele. The green party had previously insisted on the measure, partly because all in-person visits to rent a house have been suspended. During the first wave of coronavirus infections, Diependaele prohibited tenants from being evicted from their homes.

Real estate agents banned from showing houses

Real estate agents are no longer allowed to organise in-person home visits under the new coronavirus measures, according to the Federal Public Economy Service.

The sector, however, says this is not evident from the rulings. During the first lockdown, site visits for selling or renting out a house were not allowed, but "there are no elements in the ministerial decree that show that it is no longer allowed this time," said Dorien Stevens of the Professional Institute of Real Estate Agents.

"There is no official communication from the minister who says it is not possible," Stevens continues. "Notaries and social housing companies are allowed to continue. They also carry out site visits. And it has been said that they will do everything possible to avoid unfair competition."

According to the FPS Economy, even those who want to sell or rent out their home without an estate agent cannot organise visiting days. In that case, the rules apply that, apart from the so-called cuddle contact, no one is allowed to visit. Online visits are allowed at both private individuals and estate agents.

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Antwerp wants to subpoena participants of lockdown parties

The Public Prosecutor's Office of Antwerp wants to take a stricter approach to so-called lockdown parties than during the first lockdown and is no longer going to propose an amicable settlement to adult attendees who are caught but subpoena them instead.

Violators of the coronavirus rules will then have to appear before the police court during a special coronavirus hearing.

Minors will be arrested with a view to being brought before the juvenile court and, if necessary, will receive an official report on a "disturbing home situation."

De Lijn conductors will fine non-mask wearers

From 12 November, De Lijn will start checking for compliance with the face mask obligation on public transport. People not wearing a face mask, or something else covering their mouth and nose on any De Lijn vehicle risk an administrative €250 fine.

AB falls silent until 2021

The recent developments related to the coronavirus pandemic have forced the Ancienne Belgique (also known as AB) to close, the organisation said in a press release.

“Although a reopening of the cultural sector is currently planned for 19 November, the AB has now decided to suspend all public activities until 31 December,” the organisation said.

Amateur football competitions suspended until January 2021

The Belgian Football Federation (RBFA) and its French-speaking (ACFF) and Dutch-speaking (Voetbal Vlaanderen) announced on Monday that all interrupted amateur football competitions will not resume until January 2021. Only professional football competitions, in 1A, 1B and in the Women's Super League will continue to be played without an audience.

"Due to the strengthened government measures, which have been in effect since last night and apply until December 13, 2020, only professional competitions can continue, as well as training and friendly matches from U6 to U13 included," the Belgian Union said in a press release.

Animal shelters can remain open

Contrary to what is stated on Belgium’s government’s website, animal shelters and salons are allowed to remain open during the lockdown, according to Flemish Animal Welfare Minister Ben Weyts.

The new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) of the federal government states that animal salons must close, and that animal shelters are “are not open to the public” but that shelter and essential care of animals is crucial, and therefore permitted.

However, this goes against the most recent Ministerial Decree, which explicitly states that “veterinarians, pet food shops, animal care services and animal shelters may remain open,” according to Weyts.

Belgium’s opticians can also stay open

After no clarification was given over the weekend, opticians learned on Monday evening that they can also remain open during Belgium’s closure of non-essential shops, confirmed the Federal Public Economy Service.

“Since they offer medical supplies, these professions are authorised to practise,” the authorities said in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of the federal information website

“These are spectacle frames, prescription lenses, contact lenses and contact lens solutions,” said Viviane De Vries of the Professional Association of Opticians and Optometrists (APOOB). Sunglasses, on the other hand, are not medical unless they are prescribed.

Children cannot welcome Sinterklaas to Belgium in person this year

The legendary figure of Sinterklaas will still come to Belgium to bring presents to children this year, but people will not be allowed to attend his yearly arrival in Antwerp because of the lockdown measures.

Sinterklaas will arrive in Antwerp by boat on Saturday 14 November around 2:00 PM, but instead of going to welcome him into the country in person like other years, children and their parents will have to watch his traditional arrival live on television, because of the strict measures against gatherings currently in force in Belgium.

“I do not want to let you down, certainly not in a year that has already been so difficult,” he said in a video message.

Jules Johnston & Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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