Health Minister “Little likelihood of a traditional Christmas with the extended family”

The Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) has told VRT News it is unlikely that we will be able to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way this year. Multi-course family meals in which, (grand) parents, brothers and sisters, their spouses and children gather on Christmas Eve, family get-togethers on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve celebrations with food, family, friends and plenty of booze may well be of the menu. If they do take place it will be with far fewer people sat around the table to tuck into the festive fayre. 

Belgium is not the only country that has gone into or is about to enter its second lockdown of the coronavirus crisis. Countries such as France and Wales are already in lockdown while England will go into lockdown from next Thursday.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes that families in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be able to be together for Christmas. However, Belgium's Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has said in an interview with VRT television’s Sunday topical discussion programme ‘De Zevende Dag’ that he very much doubts that we will be able to celebrate a traditional family Christmas here.

“I am going to say something very awkward, but our situation is much worse that that of the Germans or the British. We all want to make Christmas nice, but we can’t promise anything”, a cautious Mr Vandenbroucke said.

“You want to know what my gut feeling is? I think that there is not a great deal of chance that we will be able to celebrate with our cousins, grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles. It is not likely that we will be able to have such large gatherings. But we hope that we will be able to let families celebrate Christmas together".

Mr Vandenbroucke added “We hope that we can improve the situation. An Irish politician once said ‘this is going to be a very difficult winter, but afterwards there will be beautiful springs and summers’. However, we must get through. Postpone Christmas? no, don’t do that. We really aren’t going to do that. There is still room for manoeuvre. You can still see people outside. Although you can’t sit next to each other there are a host of ways in which you can keep in touch. You can help and support each other. We are going to celebrate Christmas, but it will be different”.

Meanwhile, the Federal Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden (Flemish Christian democrat) says that the prospect of a nice family Christmas should act as motivation for people to uphold the rules. However, she won’t make any commitments to what we might or might not be allowed to do during the festive season. “I am not going to make any promises that I might not be able to keep”, Ms Verlinden told ‘De zevende dag’. 

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