'Easter pause' threatens hospitality sector reopening plans

'Easter pause' threatens hospitality sector reopening plans
Credit: Belga

Belgium's hospitality industry may not be able to count on a reopening on 1 May due to the strict new measures coming into force across the country as part of the "Easter pause."

Starting from Saturday, Belgium will take a step back towards more fixed rules for four weeks, something which could jeopardise the provisional timeline set out in early March, according to the government's "outdoor plan" that aimed to fully reopen all schools on 19 April, and the hospitality sector on 1 May.

"However, no dates have been set," Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told VTM following the Committee meeting on Wednesday. "It was always said that it will depend on the situation, on the epidemic, and I think everyone has learned their lesson now."

According to him, the current rise shows that "if you set a date, people believe that it is a done deal already. But you have to be very careful with this virus."

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Last week, the relaxations in the outdoor plan - such as outdoor events with up to 50 people and the reopening of amusement parks - were already postponed to a later, as-yet-unknown date.

"We do not make any hard promises because sometimes that goes wrong," Vandenbroucke said. "The virus is not influenced by promises, it is only influenced by our actions."

The latest measures - which see people's outdoor bubbles reduced from ten to four, and non-medical contact professions close their doors again - are set to remain in force until 25 April, only a week before 1 May.

The closure of non-medical contact professions, such as hairdressers and beauticians, in particular, shows that relaxations are always uncertain, as Prime Minister Alexander De Croo promised in January that once hairdressers would open, they should stay open.

During the press conference on Wednesday, De Croo said that the coronavirus was teaching policymakers and experts "a lesson in humility."

“It is in our nature to make plans, but unfortunately, it is in the nature of the virus to mess them up," he said. "But our goal remains a summer of freedom.”

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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