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Easter Pause: How shopping works now

Credit: Belga

Since the announcement on Wednesday of Belgium’s ‘Easter pause,’ the rules on shopping have once again undergone an overhaul, as some “non-essential” shops move to an appointment-only system, while others get to stay open.

In the updated list, posted following the Consultative Committee meeting, Belgium’s minister for small businesses and the self-employed, David Clarinval, posted a definitive list of what is allowed for the next four weeks.

The following ‘essential’ stores can stay open, unchanged:

–  Food stores, including night shops;
–  Shops with hygiene and care products;
–  Pet food stores;
–  Pharmacies;
–  Newsagents and bookstores;
–  Gas stations;
–  Telecommunication shops;
–  Medical device shops;
–  DIY stores;
–  Garden centres;
–  Flower and plant shops;
–  Wholesalers for professionals;
–  Shops selling clothing fabrics;
–  Retail stores selling thread and sewing articles;
–  Shops selling stationery;

Service providers such as car-washes, ambulant ice cream vendors, and estate agents can also continue their activities, according to Clarinval.

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Non-essential shops, which means all shops that are not on the above list, can also stay open, but are only allowed to receive customers by appointment.

The maximum number of customers allowed in a store at the same time depends on the size of the shop, but with an absolute maximum of 50 people.

Clients are still asked to shop on their own, but two people from the same household may enter the shop together.

Additionally, home deliveries and click-and-collect are still possible, but only if there is no physical contact between staff and clients, and clients do not enter the shop.

Several larger shops, such as Mediamarkt, will start using an online reservation system, but many smaller shops are asking clients to make an appointment by phone or email.

“We have a script ready which contains all possible scenarios, including that of a reservation system. We will make sure that customers can make an appointment online,” Janick De Saedeleer of Mediamarkt told VRT.

Several clothing stores, such as H&M and Primark, told VRT that they are waiting to see what happens, but that there is a chance that not all branches will remain open. “If there are not enough people, then it is just not profitable,” they said.

Jules Johnston & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times