Small businesses won’t survive until Easter for relaxed measures, minister warns
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Small businesses won’t survive until Easter for relaxed measures, minister warns

Credit: Belga

Many small businesses on the brink of bankruptcy will not survive if Belgium doesn’t relax measures before Easter, according to Federal Minister for the Self-Employed and SMEs, David Clarinval.

Belgium should be crystal clear about the timing of the relaxations for all the different sectors, Clarinval told De Standaard in an interview, putting pressure on the federal government in the wake of the next Consultative Committee, on Friday 26 February.

“Think of all the self-employed people with businesses that continue to stay shut, while the figures are good. I’m not saying we should reopen everything right away, but we should be thinking about the hospitality industry and some of the sports activities,” he said.

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Other politicians, including N-VA president and mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever, have previously called for a loosening of restrictions, and De Wever has even said he was never convinced of the closures of restaurants, arguing they have the capacity to work safely.

Last week, the leader of Clarinval’s party (Francophone liberal MR party), Georges-Louis Bouchez, already pleaded for the reopening of Belgian restaurants by the start of spring, saying they are likely to open sooner than bars.

However, several experts, including biostatistician Geert Molenberghs, have said that people in Belgium should remain patient for a little while longer, and that some measures may then be relaxed during the Easter holidays.

Virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht is cautiously hopeful about the figures, but said it is too early to speak of relaxations, adding that Belgium has to reach the set threshold of 75 hospitalisations per day before they can be announced, which could take until mid-March.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times