The lingerie manufacturer Van de Velde from Schellebelle in East Flanders has been granted the status of essential business to allow it to open exceptionally, after switching its production to hospital aprons and face-masks.
The decision was taken by the Economic Risk Management Group (ERMG), which maintains a list of essential companies.
Non-essential companies that have not already been ordered to close are subject to the order to allow teleworking where possible. Essential companies on the other hand are allowed to continue production while respecting social distancing.
A ministerial order from March 23 ordered the closure of all retail businesses except food shops, night shops, pharmacies, newspaper shops, petrol stations, fuel suppliers, phone shops and shops selling medical supplies.
Yesterday saw the approval of an annex to the order, which contains a list of businesses whose services are considered “essential for the protection of the vital interests of the nation and the needs of the population”.
That lists includes textiles businesses whose production consists of equipment like masks and other protective clothing. It also includes businesses that produce clothing for “clean rooms” such as used in the pharmaceutical industry.
The new list also includes cleaning companies working for crucial sectors and essential sectors, which includes waste-management. The packaging industry can also be considered essential depending on what products the company produces.
The last sector to be included on the list is the temp sector and companies that provide local service in care and aid for vulnerable groups.
Van de Velde, meanwhile, switched its production over in mid-March, from lingerie to face masks for the City General Hospital in Aalst. That order has been filled in the meantime.
“The hospital asked us to switch over to aprons, because they need those more,” commented company chairman Herman Van de Velde. The company employs ten expert seamstresses on its essential production.
The company is involved only in assembly. The special surgical fabric is provided by the hospital itself.
Other departments of the company are faced with zero demand from Belgian retailers, whose shops are all closed, and depressed demand from other countries.
“But we are working hard on our collection for 2021,” said CEO Marleen Vaesen.