In its last meeting on Friday, the Consultative Committee announced a number of minor relaxations of the measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19.
One thing that was only mentioned in passing, however, was the curfew that has been in force since October last year. Wallonia did decide to bring its curfew into line with Flanders – midnight to 05.00 – leaving Brussels region alone from 22.00 to 06.00.
But so far none of those taking part in the committee argued for a removal of the curfew altogether.
Jan Jambon (N-VA), minister-resident of Flanders, sits on the committee, as do his Walloon and Brussels counterparts Elio Di Rupo and Rudi Vervoort (both PS), but waited until today to voice his opposition to the measure.
In an interview with the Flemish Sunday politics programme De zevende dag, Jambon referred to the curfew as “a serious infringement of our liberty”.
“I hope the federal government will give us some freedom in that regard,” he added.
The next consultative committee meeting should take up the question, he said.
“I think that’s going to be a tough discussion,” he said.
“I’ve never been a big fan. In Flanders, we have always been able to avoid further expansion. The day abolition is on the table, I will be on that side.”
Jambon finds himself an unlikely ally on this question of Georges-Louis Bouchez, president of the conservative MR, who wants a lifting of the measure when bars and restaurants are – tentatively for now – allowed to re-open.
“It seems reasonable to us to lift the curfew in April,” he said. “Because it is a complete restriction on our freedom. By the day the hospitality industry opens, we think the curfew should disappear.”
Meanwhile federal home affairs minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) is refusing to come down on one side or the other. The curfew will stay in place for the time being, she said, but the issue is always open to discussion in the committee.
“We have to discuss the situation in every Consultative Committee,” she said.
“I am in favour of checking such a decision against the numbers every time.”
Her government colleague Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) sees the measure lasting longer.
“The curfew is a useful way to control outdoor activity. Of course we want to get rid of it quickly, but that can only happen at the right time,” he told the VRT.
Soon after, he wrote on Twitter: “We are not going to keep the curfew for one minute longer than necessary.”
Left up to health minister Frank Vandenbroucke, however, the measure would be with us somewhat longer.
“If you don’t want people to throw parties at night, curfew helps to enforce that,” he said – although the daily news reveals the fact that curfew does very little to stop lockdown parties, and neither do the fines associated.
“I even dare to think ahead: if we open cafes and restaurants in May, but don’t want them to stay open all night, the curfew will remain a useful measure.”