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Relaxed measures on gatherings welcomed

© Belga

The decision by Belgium’s authorities to increase the number of persons allowed to gather outdoors from 5 to 10, starting on Monday, is “excellent news, at last, for the youth,” according to the spokesman of the Brussels by Night Federation, Lorenzo Serra.

However, Serra, whose federation represents the world of Brussels nightlife, described the overall management of the health crisis as “worthy of the 20th century.”

He stressed that his federation had expected the changes to be announced earlier since “open-air gatherings are not the problem” and, moreover, they enable young people, who suffer mentally from the lockdown, to be liberated.

“I also appreciated the address by Pierre-Yves Jeholet, who finally spoke of the young,” the Brussels by Night spokesman added.

Jeholet, who is Prime Minister of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, had urged the elderly and most vulnerable persons to take the vaccines against Coronavirus. This would “enable us to provide prospects once more for our young people,” he stressed.

In addition to raising the maximum number allowed for outdoor gatherings to 10, the Consultative Committee on Friday agreed to the full resumption of in-person classes in higher education.

The Committee, made up of the federal government and the governments of the regions and language communities, also agreed to allow the resumption of organised activities for children and young people in groups of up to 25 persons, supervisors included. Participants will need to be tested for COVID-19 before, and at the end of, such camps.

The fact that the youths have been heard is “a good sign for democracy,” said Serra, although he stressed that he could not “understand why society is not being reopened by age group,” pending effective vaccine coverage.

“Everything is closed down, then everything is reopened just as before, without taking into consideration the risk linked to the age of the person,” he noted.

While an age-related approach could seem discriminatory, forcing businesses to go bankrupt “is a political choice,” he added. The culture, hospitality and nightlife world “wishes to be in solidarity with 11 million (Belgians) but we’re asking the State to be in solidarity with the sectors it is closing down – and the persons behind them – and that’s not the case. It’s scandalous,” he said.

Still, the latest measures bring some measure of relief to the sector. “There’s no doubt that 80% of the capital’s nightlife will be able to survive thanks to the support from the Region,” Serra said.

However, this will only be the case if the support comes “quickly” and the reopening is fast “because clubs have been closed for one year now with fixed costs of 5,000 to 45,000 euros per month,” Serra argued. “Fresh assistance will be needed to cover the second, third and even the fourth quarter of 2021.”

“This crisis requires a creative response tailored to reality,” he stressed.

The Brussels Times