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One-way traffic and common sense: how the shops will reopen

Credit: Belga

Big cities in Flanders will implement fixed walking directions and one-way traffic for pedestrians on busy shopping when stores will be allowed to reopen.

Belgium’s National Security Council will meet on Wednesday to discuss Phase 1B out of the country’s lockdown, which is planned on 11 May, when all stores can reopen.

To prepare for the reopening, the trade unions, the Belgian Federation for Commerce and Services Comeos, the Union of Self-Employed Entrepreneurs Unizo, and Union des Classes Moyennes reached an agreement about which measures should be taken before stores are allowed to reopen, such as the places in the stores that are only accessible to staff, as well as specific suggestions depending on the type of store.

Cities and municipalities also announced plans to make sure the reopening can happen safely, and all stated that they are counting on people’s common sense. The basic rules -keeping 1.5 metres distance, washing your hands regularly and coughing and sneezing in your elbow- will still have to be respected.

More people in the shopping streets in combination with queues for individual shops will require creativity from the cities and municipalities in any case, according to the Flemish Association for Cities and Municipalities (VVSG).

On Monday, the VVSG issued a number of general guidelines to deal with the reopening such as placing fences or other boundaries, indicating walking directions, deploying extra police and/or stewards, as well as other crowd control measures, such as monitoring via cameras.

In Brussels, the Rue Neuve will be divided into two halves by crowd barriers. On each side, it will only be possible to walk in one direction, either in the direction of Rogier, or in the direction of Place Monnaie. Changing directions will be possible in three places.

“That way, you are not obliged to walk down the entire Rue Neuve,” Aurore Borrens of the Cabinet of Alderman of Economy Fabian Maingain told Het Laatste Nieuws. Posters explaining all the measures will be placed at all entrances and exits of the Rue Neuve.

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The coastal city of Ostend announced that it will introduce one-way traffic for pedestrians in its biggest shopping streets, helping by a circulation plan.

“It is important that the stores can reopen safely. We do not want to encourage people to go shopping just for fun, but if people really need something, they should not be scared either,” Charlotte Verkeyn, Alderman for Economics, told Het Laatste Nieuws. “There will be zones where people can wait safely and where they can walk with the necessary distance,” she added.

Additionally, sensors will register the number of people present in the shopping streets, which will be shown live on an LED screen. If it gets too crowded, the police can intervene. A team of coaches will also guide people in following the measures, and hand-washing stations, lockable bins and toilets will be provided throughout the city.

The city of Antwerp will ask people to walk on the right side of the streets, and follow the arrows on the ground indicating the right direction.

“If everyone walks in the same direction, you will not have oncoming traffic, and that will help to keep a meter and a half distance,” Alderman Koen Kennis told VRT. The city wants to avoid long queues, but if they do occur, people should form a line along the right side of the shops. If a certain store is too busy, staff members may ask customers to come back at a quieter time.

Additionally, the city is considering sacrificing parking spaces in narrower shopping streets if necessary, and is also looking into the possibility of installing toilet cabins.

The city of Ghent will implement a fixed walking direction in its wider shopping streets and one-way traffic in smaller ones, confirmed Alderman Sofie Bracke to Het Laatste Nieuws.

“The intention is that everyone walks to the right. People coming out of a shop in the Veldstraat, can only turn right. This will be indicated by markings sprayed on the ground,” she said.

Additionally, the city will work with guides or coaches on the streets to make sure people follow the right direction. It is considering installing washbasins and disinfection centres in the city centre as well.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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