The hospitality industry, representing restaurants and bars, has reacted with shock to the measures announced yesterday that involve a nationwide shut-down for four weeks.
The measures were agreed by the Consultative Committee in an effort to limit the huge increase in cases of the coronavirus Covid-19, which is already putting severe pressure on the country’s hospitals.
According to the latest figures produced today by the health institute Sciensano, the daily average of new cases went up by 97% in the last seven days compared to the week before, while hospital admissions rose by 93% over the same period.
Now the hospitality industry has been ordered to close for four weeks, though the measure will be reviewed after two. Bars in Brussels were already under lockdown, while restaurants nationwide were under a 01.00 curfew.
“This is just a pitch black Friday for 61,000 hospitality entrepreneurs, their families and the 140,000 people who work in the industry,” said Matthias De Caluwé, director of industry organisation Horeca Vlaanderen. “It is going to take a long time to get over this.”
Even before the latest measures were taken, the industry was forecasting a total loss of €7 billion for the year, he said.
“If you make such a disproportionate decision, we hope there is at least evidence behind it, and if so then the only correct answer from these governments is support measures.”
Speaking to the VRT, health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (sp.a) promised “a very substantial support package” for the industry.
“That will be a lot of money,” he said. “We are really going to dig deep, because we believe that we cannot take such a decision if we cannot provide decent compensation.”
Vandenbroucke said he understood that the industry in recent weeks has made a massive effort to respect the rules in place. “But the point now is that we need to limit the number of people’s contacts.”
De Caluwé, meanwhile, said he recognises where the fault lies.
“I just do not understand that people cannot make the minimal effort required,” he said.