“I think I can say that we have made some excellent decisions,” said federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke. “On the other hand, I have mixed feelings because the decisions are difficult ones.”
“It’s not a day too soon,” commented Dominique Michel, CEO of the retail federation Comeos on the reopening of shops. “Each day of closure represented a loss of €100 million. I am happy that the virologists have recognized our efforts to allow customers to shop safely.”
The hospitality sector will have to wait until at least 15 January for a re-evaluation of the system before reopening.
“If we were to reopen now and there came a third wave, there would simply be no more hospitality industry,” said Philippe Trine, president of Horeca Brussels.
“The 60,000 catering entrepreneurs and 140,000 employees were waiting for more clarity,” said Danny Van Assche of Horeca Flanders. “If we need to make adjustments to our protocols, we can talk about it.”
Hairdressers will not yet be allowed to reopen. “Our hairdressers have taken a lot of precautions,” said Jef Vermeulen, president of the hairdressers’ federation, whose sector will remain closed for the time bring. “We work with one client at a time, with face masks, disinfectant distancing. We could have safely reopened, so that’s a big disappointment.”
Cinemas, too, will remain closed, described by the industry federation’s secretary Thierry Laermans as “very disappointing”. “We now need specific and substantial support for the cinema sector, otherwise we are heading for disaster.”
“It won’t be easy for people to fully accept this,” said psychologist Maarten Vansteenkiste of Ghent university of the rules around meeting people at Christmas.
The measures demonstrate “common sense and political courage,” according to epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme of the university of Antwerp. “We are asking a lot from people. We also know why. We are not going to waste the effort of the past four weeks in the space of a few days.”