‘Closed from midnight’: how Brussels will enforce the coronavirus shutdown

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The Halles Saint Géry/ Sint Gorikshallen in downtown Brussels will be one of several venues forced to shut down at midnight on Friday. © visit.brussels /Jean-Pol Lejeune

All mayors in Brussels said their municipalities would locally enforce the new set of measures announced by federal leaders to halt the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

After the caretaker federal government announced it was taking over managing the country’s response to the outbreak, the 19 mayors of the Brussels-Capital Region met to discuss how they would implement the new top-down rules.

One of the most drastic decisions was to shut down of all cafés, bars, nightclubs and restaurants, a measure which is set to come into effect on Friday at midnight.

In downtown Brussels, police will patrol the streets to ensure the measure was followed by all establishments, the cabinet of the mayor Philippe Close said.

“The City of Brussels [1000] will take the appropriate measures to make sure everything goes smoothly, there will be continual surveillance,” spokesperson Maïté Van Rampelbergh told La Libre.

In Saint-Gilles, which has a lively bar and restaurant scene, an administrative worker with the municipality said that police would also be deployed to enforce the measure and that sanctions would apply for those who failed to comply.

Other municipalities did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but the Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, said that local police zones across Brussels could make use of force to implement the measures, all the while noting that no decisions were made regarding potential fines.

Farmers markets, hotels, town halls will remain open

Civil weddings and ceremonies held in municipal town halls will be allowed to go forward on the condition that the guest lists are reduced.

Mayors also decided to keep farmer’s markets on their territories open for the time being, as well as hotels, which will only have to shut their bars and restaurants, which may still provide room service.

In line with the measures announced by federal leaders, Brussels mayors said that all drive-in, take away and food delivery services would continue to operate normally for the time being.

The new measures follow the cancellation of a string of indoor and outdoor events across Brussels, as a number of both public and private organisers rushed to follow the non-enforceable recommendations first issued on Tuesday.

The announcement of stricter containment rules come after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of the new Covid-19 coronavirus a pandemic.

The virus, which has sickened over 100,000 people worldwide and put the entire countries of Italy and China on lockdown, reached Belgium at the start of March.

As of Thursday, the death toll in the country stands at three and the official count of confirmed cases rose to 556 on Friday, up from 399 the day before.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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