May 16, 2024

Belgium risks becoming “an island of bankrupt shops”

Shops are closed in Brussels, Belgium, on November 2.
Shops are closed in Brussels, Belgium, on November 2. Zheng Huansong/Xinhua/Getty Images

As Belgium’s neighbors begin opening up their stores, the Belgian federation of commerce and services Comeos has warned the country “will not become an island of closed shops but rather an island of bankrupt shops, while Belgian money is spent abroad.” 

“Figures show that 1 in 3 Belgian families cross the border no less than nine times a year to make purchases. It is a billion euros less each year and this, without coronavirus,” said Dominique Michel, CEO of Comeos in a statement. “If everything remains closed with us, everyone will go across the border also for their Christmas shopping,” he said.

According to Comeos, which represents 18 business sectors in Belgium and over 400,000 employees, half of all Belgians live within 50km of an international border.

Earlier this week, the Belgian National Crisis Centre urged Belgians not to travel abroad over Christmas and New Year, warning trips to neighboring countries would “cancel out our efforts” in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

Belgium’s Consultative Committee — made up of leaders from the three regional governments and federal government — is due to meet Friday to assess the coronavirus measures currently in place and discuss ways the country would be able to celebrate Christmas. 

All non-essential retail has been closed since the end of October, when the national lockdown was announced; it is scheduled to end on December 13. When announcing the lockdown, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said a decision would be made by December 1 regarding a possible re-opening of shops and services.   

There have been 561,083 Covid-19 infections in Belgium so far and 15,938 deaths. The country’s head virologist, Steven van Gucht, says Belgium is “on the right track” in reducing coronavirus infections.

After the exponential rise with a peak around the end of October, we have seen an equally rapid decline since then…So, we are on the right track. But, still a long way from the safe harbour.” 
Deaths have continued to decline and are now 15% lower than the week before. On average, there were 162 deaths per day in the past week.