State virologist ‘concerned’ over packed terraces at the weekend
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State virologist ‘concerned’ over packed terraces at the weekend

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Belgian state virologist Steven Van Gucht is “concerned” after seeing the terraces of bars and cafes packed at the weekend, the first since their reopening after months of lockdown.

“Those scenes from last weekend, I’m a bit concerned about that,” Van Gucht said on Flemish TV program Terzake.

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All bars, restaurants and cafés in Belgium were allowed to reopen on 8 June, with the first weekend drawing in major crowds.

“I saw a lot of people at the table this weekend, people need to be careful. The virus hasn’t gone away and could break out again.”

As a condition for reopening, establishments were ordered to ensure that tables were at least 1.5 metres apart from each other, but many places during the weekend did not enforce this mandatory rule.

Across Brussels, police zones enforcing the rules relied mostly on dialogue and warnings to the owners, with only around a dozen fines handed out during the first week of reopening.

Van Gucht said that the basic personal hygiene rules continued to apply, urging people to keep washing their hands and avoid touching their faces when in public.

“We are in calmer waters, but there are still crocodiles that want to bite,” he said.

As the Dutch-speaking spokesman for federal health institute Sciensano, Van Gucht had until recently been giving daily updates about the virus’ epidemiological evolution in Belgium.

“We’ve made everyone a bit of a virologist,” he said. “People are well aware of the risks — of what we should do and what we should not do— the responsibility now lies with the citizens.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times