'Not comparable': Flemish hospitality sector disagrees with American Covid-19 study

'Not comparable': Flemish hospitality sector disagrees with American Covid-19 study
© Hatim Kaghat - Belga

The Flemish hospitality industry disagrees with a recent American study showing that Covid-19 infections mainly occur in bars and restaurants, as they claim that "the situation is not comparable."

The hospitality industry in Flanders does not think it is right that the blame is "once again" put on bars and restaurants "while this is a joint fight," according to Matthias De Caluwe, CEO of the Flemish hospitality sector federation Horeca Vlaanderen.

Recent research at Stanford University found that a large proportion of coronavirus infections take place at so-called “super-spreader locations,” such as restaurants, cafés and gyms.

"The situation in the American hospitality sector and their measures [against the spread of the virus] are not comparable with the Belgian ones," he said on Flemish radio. "Comparing us to the US like that seems dangerous to me. We would not do that for politics either."

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"Over the past few weeks, the problem of higher infections risks in indoor areas has surfaced," De Caluwe said. "However, if that is a problem in the hospitality industry, then it is surely also a problem at work, in classes and in people's homes?"

De Caluwe stressed the federation wants to cooperate in any way it can to beat the virus, "but in future, let us apply the same rules everywhere and, above all, let us check whether there is a restriction on the number of contacts everywhere," he said.

Additionally, he pointed to the need for Belgian research into where people get infected, as the situation can differ from the one in the US or even the Netherlands. "We would also like to enter into a dialogue to see whether, with the new knowledge, other measures, such as extra ventilation, should be introduced," De Caluwe said.

Virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht told VRT that Stanford's research "confirms what our common sense has been saying for a long time."

Biostatistician Geert Molenberghs agrees that there will be some local and regional differences between countries, but also stated that this is "not the first study to point in the direction of the hospitality sector," reports Het Nieuwsblad.

When the sector will be able to reopen is not clear yet, but Molenberghs said that the measures should be reassessed before that happens. "Keeping even more distance between tables seems to be an option to me," he suggested.

According to Van Gucht, extra attention should also be paid to the ventilation of the room. "And even more checks should be carried out," he said. "In some establishments, I felt really safe, in other places I saw how the rules were barely followed."

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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