Nothing but disappointment from the events sector, which includes culture, sport, concerts and other events. Instead of the long-term prospects they were hoping for, they received assurances only for May and June, with the circumstances in which they are allowed to work in later months to be decided in May.
“How can we now start planning the most important period of the year?” a spokesperson for the Culture Crisis Cell asked. “How do we explain that to our people who have been on the sidelines all this time? What more needs to be done than a vaccinated population and sufficient free intensive care capacity for the sector to be able to reboot without restrictions?”
The Events Confederation complains that the sector was asked by the government to work out a plan for opening, which they did, and which has now been ignored.
“We have been without economic activity for 400 days and then there is a little bit of news about May and June, which is economically unprofitable. And now we have to wait another 14 days,” said spokesperson Bruno Schaubroeck. “This sector needs time to restart. That time is now.”
In the hospitality sector, by contrast, the relatively generous relaxations agreed by the committee have been welcomed. Those include only light restrictions and opening until 22.00, but only for terraces.
“We will do everything we can to receive people safely,” said Matthias Decaluwé, head of Horeca Vlaanderen. “That is always better than people eating out in parks or on museum stairs. We cooperated last summer and will do again from 8 May. Hopefully, it will be an interim phase before returning to the old normal when we can open up the indoor areas.”
But the sector continues to call for support, especially for those businesses that have no terrace, or the possibilities are too limited to make reopening viable.
According to Flemish economy minister Hilde Crevits, the money cafes take in from their terraces will not count towards the support they receive.
“Since the start of the corona crisis, we have given more than €660 million in support to the hospitality industry,” she said.
“That was badly needed. We are now asking them to open their terraces, but we will continue to consider them closed. So they still receive the same support measures.”
The medical experts, meanwhile, are anything but satisfied with the politicians’ decisions. Especially since the committee agreed at its last meeting to only decide on the basis of a positive evolution of the medical situation – which has yet to materialise.
“I hope this will not give rise to people making new contacts,” said virologist Stephen Van Gucht. “If you go out for a drink with the people you already see at home, that could be a bit safer. But if this means that you will meet again with people you have not seen for a long time? I was surprised that you can sit at a terrace with four random people.”
“I don’t understand where they get the logic to make this decision,” said Professor Dirk Devroey of the Brussels Free University (VUB). “It mostly contradicts what they said at the previous Consultative Committee.”