The wholesale closure of all bars in the country for three weeks is an exceptional measure, but the behaviour of patrons on the last evening before what some were calling “the end of the world” was anything but unexpected.
Across the country, bars were filling up from early in the evening with people determined to fit in one last evening of carousing before the shutters went up. But those who took part in such “lockdown parties” have incurred the wrath of the authorities.
According to the spokesperson for the Covid-19 crisis centre, Professor Emmanuel André, such behaviour – which involved hundreds of people crammed into bars and taverns – puts at risk the evolution of the epidemic.
“That is exactly what we don’t wish to see, and it will have a negative impact on the evolution of the epidemic and the intensive daily work carried out by doctors and nurses, which is getting heavier each day,” he said.
“We are asking urgently for an end to this sort of social event.”
For federal home affairs minister Pieter De Crem, “This demonstrates a lack of civic responsibility.” And ministry spokesperson Peter Mertens described the parties as “regrettable”.
“It is important for everyone to follow the drastic measures announced,” André said. “The more they are followed, the bigger the impact will be.”
The parties, he said, were exactly what the authorities did not want to happen.
“Those people absolutely have to limit their contacts in the coming days. This is going to send the figures through the roof, and it’s no laughing matter.”
The crisis centre also expressed regret at the actions of some shoppers, who took part in a spree of panic-buying, emptying supermarket shelves even of products that are in no sense at risk of shortages, such as toilet paper.
Panic buying is not at all necessary, the government has said, and the major supermarkets ave made it clear they are in no danger of running out of the necessary items to see customers through the coming three weeks.
To repeat, shops selling food and animal food, as well as pharmacies, are allowed to open all week – unlike other non-essential shops and other businesses like hair salons which have to close at the weekend.
And while shopping, people ought to be careful to avoid crowded areas – such as the massed crowds seen outside some supermarkets yesterday as shoppers were held back at the entrance to avoid crowding inside.
Street markets can still take place during the week, and people were advised to do other shopping on weekdays.
“Go shopping when it’s quiet. That way we’ll get through this faster.”