Belgium will discuss how to reopen hospitality sector on Friday
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Belgium will discuss how to reopen hospitality sector on Friday

Credit: Belga

Belgium’s Consultative Committee will meet on Friday to discuss rules and arrangements on how to reopen the hospitality industry from 8 May and set a framework for the culture and event sector.

A bit over a week after the previous Committee, the authorities will meet on Friday 23 April to look into gradually restarting the culture and events sector and the sports sector, as Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon announced.

According to reports in Francophone media on Monday, a closing time of 8:00 PM for the terraces of bars and restaurants is one of the measures that could be implemented if they can reopen from 8 May, but it is still too early to say anything about that, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told The Brussels Times.

“The authorities are currently still gathering information, but [reports of an 8:00 PM closing time] are all rather premature,” said De Croo’s spokesperson Tom Meulenbergs, adding that “it will all be discussed at Friday’s Consultative Committee.”

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The finer details of the protocols, such as a possible closing time, will also be discussed, but “it is too early to be able to say anything about that,” he added.

However, the president of the Walloon Horeca Federation told La Dernière Heure that the sector will take steps to push the 8:00 PM hour back to 10:00 PM or 11:00 PM if possible.

Over the weekend, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke repeated that the 8 May reopening of the terraces is “not a fixed certainty,” but will depend on the evolution of the vaccinations and the figures.

Reacting to Vandenbroucke’s statements, however, Georges-Louis Bouchez, the president of the Francophone liberal MR party, stated “the Health Minister must stop undermining the confidence and morale of Belgians. The terraces will open on 8 May. We guarantee that.

Additionally, the Committee will also focus on the gradual restart of the cultural and event sector, looking to set up a framework for “test events” such as the performance planned on 26 April in the Brussels’ KVS theatre and the concert in the Walloon town of Spa.

For both sectors, which rules will be in force if they can reopen – if Belgium meets the conditions of vaccinating 70% of over-65s and an improved situation in the hospitals – are currently still unclear.

In beginning of April, the Belgian trade association for events organisation (Febelux) and the collective #restartMICE presented a report on how infection risks at events during the coronavirus crisis can be estimated and managed to allow the reopening of the sector. The event sector proposed to test its risk calculator.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times