Cafés and restaurants may be allowed to re-open on 1 May, a decision welcomed by the industry.
“On the one hand, the news is not great, because we have been closed for more than six months already, but on the other hand we are happy that there is clarity we can work towards. Everyone was waiting for that,” said Matthias De Caluwé of sector federation Horeca Vlaanderen.
The mayors of the coastal towns are angry that the restaurant sector can only open on 1 May, after the end of the Easter school holidays.
“I am angry,” said Jean-Marie Dedecker, mayor of Middelkerke.
“It’s shameful. There is only one reason why the catering industry is only allowed to open on May 1 and that is Elio Di Rupo. The socialists want Labour Day to be the day when the population is liberated. It’s a purely political game.”
His colleague Bart Tommelein of Ostend is concerned that people will come flooding to the coast anyway.
“We have no choice but to accept the decision, but I do ask the government to help us, because this decision will have serious consequences if people again travel en masse to the coast. I also hope that the SNCB [rail authority] will keep their promises.”
Amusement parks may open from 1 April.
“We have already started preparations for the reopening in the Plopsa parks. So the extra reassurance is good,” said Steve Van den Kerkhof, CEO of Plopsa.
Funeral services may now take place with up to 50 people present instead of 15 at present.
“Brilliant news,” said Johan Dexters, president of the sector federation Funebra.
“Far too often, families were faced with heartbreaking choices. You can only say goodbye once. If you can’t be there, it’s extremely difficult.”
The culture sector can resume from 1 April with events for a maximum audience of 50 people, masked and distanced. From May more will be allowed, but nobody yet knows how much more.
“It is difficult to be satisfied,” said Frederik Sioen of the culture crisis cell.
“We need a workable framework. With 50 people in April we are not going to survive. We have had many bankruptcies in our sector, and people are ending up in poverty.”
The Flemish students’ association VVS expressed disappointment that the promised ‘kotbubbel’ – allowing students living in one residence to behave as if they were one household – has not materialised.
“A few weeks ago we reached an agreement on this with the various ministers of education,” Sander Vanmaercke of the VVS told VTM news.
“Everyone is behind it, but we are still not getting there.”
The consultative committee declined to make any changes to the ban on non-essential travel until after the Easter holidays, leaving the travel sector facing their second barren Easter vacation period in a row.
“Let’s say the positive thing is that we know what we are facing right away, but it would have been nice if we had also had some perspective for the future,” said Koen van den Bosch of the association of Flemish travel agents.
“The extension of the ban is not entirely unexpected,” said Tim Van Den Bergh of tour operator Sunweb.
“Even if the government had gone back to colour codes, that wouldn’t have changed much, as almost all of the destinations we offer are in code red.”