On Thursday evening the National Security Council announced far-reaching measures to try and prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus. Among the measures announced was the closure of all restaurants, bars and discotheques in Belgium from midnight on Friday until midnight on Friday 3 April. Furthermore, only shops that sell food, animal feed (and pet food) and pharmacies will be allowed to open at the weekend. All other shops will have to restrict their opening hours to weekdays. Needless to say the measures will have a negative impact on what are often small businesses in the retail and hospitality industries.
In an effort to go some way to offset this the Flemish Government has announced a number of measures. All business that are forced to close completely for the next three weeks will be given a tax-free grant of 4,000 euros to help keep them afloat.
Business that will be unable to open for the next three weekends will be given 2,000 euro.
On top of the Flemish Government promises 160 euro/day for each day a business has to remain closed beyond 21 days.
The Flemish Government is also standing as guarantor to the tune of 100 million euro for loans taken out by businesses and the self-employed.
The conditions under which certain subsidies are granted to help businesses have also been relaxed. Demands for business rates on premises used by Flemish business won’t be issued until September rather than in May. Business rates earn the Flemish Exchequer 1 billion euro each year.
The Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (nationalist) called on Flemish to show solidarity with each other. He added that by not asking for a refund on a theatre or concert ticket you would be helping the cultural centre or association that had organised the event. Mr Jambon also said that he had heard of landlords that are waving a month’s rent to restaurateurs and bar-keepers to help them through.