'No lonely Christmas': Belgium urged to temporarily relax measures

'No lonely Christmas': Belgium urged to temporarily relax measures
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The leaders of two parties in Belgium's federal government are putting pressure on the Consultative Committee tomorrow to relax some of the coronavirus restrictions for the Christmas period.

Following earlier demands from the retail and trade sector, the leaders of the Flemish centrist CD&V party, Joachim Coens, and the Francophone liberals MR, Georges-Louis Bouchez, have also urged the authorities to relax the measures for the holidays.

“This should not become a lonely Christmas," said Coens in a press release. "The impact of the lockdown on people’s mental wellbeing is a huge challenge. That’s why the prospect of warm holidays with our loved ones, albeit in a limited circle, is an absolute must.”

According to the results of a survey of members and non-members of the party, people do not want to celebrate Christmas digitally this year.

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While some Covid-19 restrictions are still necessary, "creative solutions" are still possible, according to Coens, who referred to organising gatherings outdoors or cooking for others.

He also stated that he "would take the comments to Friday's Consultative Committee," increasing the pressure on the federal government to allow some flexibility.

MR party president Bouchez, in turn, also pleaded for some looser measures for Christmas in La Dernière Heure on Thursday morning, referring to the Quebec model.

In the Canadian province, the government gives permission for private meetings for a few days, from 24 to 27 December. However, it limits the number of guests to ten, and also urges the people to go into isolation for a few days before and after Christmas.

"We do not even have to go up to ten people," Bouchez said. "But you could still allow two, three or four people per family. Those are not big banquets."

Additionally, he said that he will propose a brief exception to the curfew, like in France, to the Consultative Committee.

The proposals and requests, however, are in stark contrast to earlier statements by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who said that "there are not a lot of possibilities to relax."

"Christmas will definitely not be like it used to be," he warned last Friday on Flemish television. "In the Christmas period, we will still be dangerous to each other, we have to have the courage to admit that. Let's face it, the last thing we want is what we would later call a Christmas wave."

Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke also stated that it is better to be strict now than to get into trouble again later, if the measures are relaxed too soon.

"We can hardly put all the efforts of the past four weeks on the line for four days," he said.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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