The federal police will be on patrol during the Christmas season to ensure that the rules on gatherings is observed, federal home affairs minister Annelies Verlinden has promised.
“The police will monitor compliance with the measures. Enforcement is very important,” she said in an interview with De Zondag newspaper.
“And where necessary, in a case of noise nuisance for example, the police will ring the doorbell. But entry into homes is in itself not a priority. The law does not make that possible in any case.”
That promise was confirmed, meanwhile, by prime minister Alexander De Croo appearing on the VRT’s weekend politics programme De Zevende dag. Both ministers, however, tried to soften the tone by suggesting some relaxation might be possible.
“Christmas is an important time for many people, including me,” said Verlinden. “It’s gonna take some time, but I’ll get there, Chris Rea sang in Driving Home for Christmas. We are now five weeks away from Christmas. If we all stick to the measures, we may be able to offer some perspective.”
According to De Croo, the meeting of the Consultative Committee due to take place this coming week will be considering the possibility of allowing some non-essential shops to open up again, as well as museums.
“Just because the first vaccines will arrive at the end of December does not mean everyone will be vaccinated within the month,” he said. “It is assumed that most of the doses will be received in the second and third quarters of 2021. We will have to be careful for a relatively long time.”
“I don’t want to make false promises,” said Verlinden. “But it is my absolute wish, and that of my colleagues, to allow a little more human closeness for Christmas. At the same time, we must take the alarm signals from hospitals very seriously. We have to find a balance.”
For the experts, though, the idea of a relaxation of the measures is a faint hope.
“You cannot expect the figures to come down by 50% every day, but we have to realise that the statistics remain incredibly high,” said virologist Marc Van Ranst. Biostatistician Geert Molenberghs agrees: “The epidemic can always restart.”