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Dutch terraces reopen: What’s happening in Belgium?

Credit: Jules Johnston/The Brussels Times

Dutch people flocked to cafés and restaurants on Wednesday, which partially reopened after a six-month closure, but over in Belgium, things are starting to pick up speed too.

It’s Great To Be Back

This reopening has been a boon for customers and shopkeepers who are taking advantage of the relaxation of measures against the coronavirus.

Across the Netherlands, queues formed in front of cafés and restaurants now able to fill outdoor terraces with a maximum of 50 people between 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM.

“It’s great to be back,” said Jonathan den Hoed, 25, over a drink with friends in The Hague.

The curfew, whose introduction in January sparked the worst riots in the Netherlands in decades, has also been lifted. The Dutch are also allowed to have two guests at home per day instead of just one.

For Sophia Kahtane, 31, a café manager in The Hague, the reopening of the terraces is “a bit of a new start towards a better future.”

“People are happy to come and have lunch and a drink outside, legally, and not be criticised by the police or members of the government,” she told AFP.

Belgians (& Others) Stay Away

As the terraces of bars and restaurants in the Netherlands reopen, Belgian residents are being urged not to cross the border to grab a drink.

“Together with my Dutch colleague, I am asking people not to go to the Netherlands to go sit on a terrace,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told VRT. “We know the need is high, many people are looking forward to a terrace, but these kinds of trips are not essential for us. Please, be patient a little longer.”

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Antwerp governor Cathy Berx is also advising everyone not to cross the border to the Netherlands to grab a drink, pointing to the continuing pressure on hospitals in Belgium. “For the whole of Belgium, there are 83 beds available in intensive care, which is extremely low,” she said on regional radio.

Terraces WILL reopen 8 May

It’s been a long time coming, but the reopening of terraces has officially been given the green light.

Belgium’s Consultative Committee confirmed the reopening of the country’s terraces from 8 May, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Wednesday evening.

By 8 May, over 80% (instead of the 70% that was required) of people over 65 years old will have been vaccinated, and the situation in the hospitals’ intensive care units “is also better today than it was two weeks ago,” the press release reads.

Besides the reopening of the terraces, the other elements of the outdoor plan will also take effect from then on. More details can be found here.

Curfew No More

As of 8 May, Belgium’s curfew will be officially lifted and replaced by a ban on gatherings of more than three people (with an exception for larger households).

The Brussels-Capital Region – which had been following different rules so far – will bring its coronavirus restrictions into line with the federal measures, alongside the rest of the country.

An End To Committee Meetings?

Absolutely not. The next meeting is set for 11 May, just days after the country reopens. The agenda is expected to focus on culture and events in the summer, but more information is expected next week.

Jules Johnston & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times