Brussels Airport should close if it cannot enforce social distancing, Van Ranst says

Brussels Airport should close if it cannot enforce social distancing, Van Ranst says
A photo of passengers crammed around baggage claim belt in Brussels Airport, posted on 19 March. Credit: @michachaell/Twitter

Brussels Airport should close down if it cannot appropriately enforce social distancing measures, a government virologist said in response to “unacceptable” images of passengers crammed together in terminals.

Virologist Marc Van Ranst, a member of the government’s coronavirus (Covid-19) response team, said that the management of passenger flows by the country’s busiest airport was “unacceptable.”

“When I see these images, I get angry,” Van Ranst tweeted in response. “This cannot and should not be (…) this is totally unacceptable behaviour.”

“If this state continues, then I only see one solution: closure,” he added.

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Van Ranst was reacting to photos posted by another user in which passengers can be seen standing in close proximity to each other at baggage reclaim.

Van Ranst’s comments drew a response from airport CEO Arnaud Feist, who conceded that the images were “indeed unacceptable” and said the airport had taken measures to avoid this.

“Passengers are now phased out of the plane, Brussels Airport wants to fully cooperate to limit the spread of the Covid-19 [coronavirus] as much as possible,” Feist tweeted.

The airport’s online coronavirus notice to passengers lists recommendations urging them to respect a distance of 1.5 metres between each other, in guidelines last updated on 18 March.

Additionally, in a tweet posted minutes before Van Ranst’s tweet, the airport shared images of mostly deserted hallways, including one where passengers could be seen standing some distance apart from each other.

“At Brussels Airport we have few flights and passengers at the moment and airport staff and police constantly urge passengers to keep 1.5 metres social distance,” the airport tweeted. “This is what it actually looks like today.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Brussels Airport said there had been a “dramatic” drop in activity, with more than half of flights cancelled and passenger traffic “in free fall.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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