© Corné Sparidaens

Plexiglas screens: government accused of ‘cock-up’

Key federal government ministers decided to remove provisions for the use of Plexiglas screens from the agreement reached between the governments and the hospitality industry. Parties must be kept 1.5m apart outdoors and Plexiglas screens cannot be used to shorten this distance due to the danger of aerosols that can spread coronavirus. Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (Flemish nationalist) has spoken of a ‘cock-up’.

The decision came late in the day after it was discovered that the exemption to physical distancing thanks to Plexiglas screens had not been agreed by the consultative committee that represents Belgian governments and has the final say on corona restrictions.  The decision upset many restaurant and pub owners, who had already installed screens.  Some politicians too are unhappy with the way things have gone.

Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden (Flemish Christian democrat) has promised mild police enforcement of the law with regard to hospitality outlets that have installed screens.  Police officers will be able to decide whether punters are kept at a safe distance on pavement cafes. She admitted government communication had been unfortunate: “It’s a shame because people in hospitality have made such a great effort to prepare what was supposed to be such a beautiful day.”

Police will intervene when dangerous situations arise. Ms Verlinden believes that if figures continue to move in the right direction indoor hospitality will be possible at the beginning of June.

Meanwhile, Bart De Wever, leader of Belgium’s biggest party, the Flemish nationalist N-VA, has used the English word ‘cock-up’ to describe the discussion about the screens.  The Mayor of Antwerp believes the consultative committee should modify the rules and allow screens to ensure physical distancing. 

“People have invested thousands of euros, have taken reservations.  Capacity is now being cut by up to a third.  This means human tragedy.  Common sense says you must revisit the decision.  You can’t enforce it!”

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