What are the rules when Belgium’s shops reopen?

What are the rules when Belgium’s shops reopen?
Rue Neuve in Brussels on 11 May, the first day of shop reopening after the coronavirus lockdown. Credit: Jules Johnston/The Brussels Times

With the news that the country successfully “managed to reverse a very dangerous trend” Belgium is now faced with an easing of coronavirus measures, with a significant focus on the retail sector as it enters into a busy season.

All non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen from Tuesday 1 December, but everything has to happen “responsibly.” In order to make this change as safe as possible, the shopkeepers, together with the cities and municipalities, have taken many extra safety measures.

Speaking ahead of the restart, Danny Van Assche of entrepreneurs’ organisation Unizo explained to VRT Radio 2 what changes, and what has stayed the same for the last month of 2020.

Who’s responsible for the rules? 

  • Mayors are responsible for the hustle and bustle in the streets and on busy shopping streets.
  • Shopkeepers are responsible for the queue for their shop. They do everything in their power to make sure it runs safely”.

Respect the basics
As always, the basic rules are vital. “Always keep a distance of 1.5 metres, use the alcohol gel offered by the shops and always wear your mouth mask”. Van Assche also suggested it is time to tell people when they are not following the rules properly. “I notice it myself in the queue at the bakery. People sometimes slip in anyway. That’s not possible and you have to speak to those people about it”.

Reduce Numbers
In a similar move to the last time shops were open the number of customers is limited, and time limits will be imposed.

  • For every 10 square metres of shop space, one customer will be admitted.
  • Shops with an area of less than 20 square metres may admit a maximum of 2 customers at the same time.
  • You may also shop for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Shop alone
Shopping must be done alone, with an exception for people who accompany a person in need, although Van Assche believes there could be a reason to allow 2 in other situations.

“Some purchases such as a car or a new kitchen cannot be decided on your own. We hope that today there will be more clarity about a possible adjustment in these kinds of situations”.

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Mayor can close shops and streets
Even if all the rules are followed, Mayors retain the ability to close down shops or streets if it gets to busy. Ideally, however, this should not have to happen.

“This has certainly been possible in the past, but it’s good to see that cities and towns are looking at how they can deal with the hustle and bustle in concrete terms. It should not only get too crowded in the shops, but it should also remain safe in the streets themselves”.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times


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