Corona restrictions: Belgium criticizes Germany

Ea month can make a big difference in Corona times. At the end of October, Belgium had achieved a sad top spot in terms of infections in Europe, and now it belongs to the bottom third of the countries. At that time the infection rate was nine times as high as in Germany. Now both states are almost on par in terms of the incidence value. While it fell in Belgium from 1,600 to 350 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in two weeks, it has increased to 300 in Germany. On Friday, the Belgian government drew up its promised interim balance sheet – and criticized what it saw as lax restrictions on neighbors.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

There was little sense of relief from the sharp drop in numbers. The situation is still “extraordinarily serious”, warned Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. You have to work week after week to keep the numbers down. Therefore, the measures imposed in October must remain in force. With one exception: from Tuesday onwards, all shops are allowed to reopen.

Exceptions for buying chocolates

In the end there was only an exception for “absolutely necessary” needs – which in Belgium includes chocolates, but not clothing. On the other hand, restaurants, bars and cafes are still closed, the night curfew remains, and the contact restrictions remain unchanged. De Croo said that easing could not be considered until mid-January at the earliest, if the efforts are continued until then. Everything must be done to prevent a third wave. “Because a third wave would be even more difficult to master than the second,” warned the Flemish liberal.

For those who had hoped for exceptions, at least for the holidays, it was a cold shower. Only one close contact is allowed per household – “knuffelcontact”, as it is called in Dutch. Larger family celebrations fall flat. “I would have liked to have celebrated Christmas with my sister and my parents,” said De Croo, “but it won’t work this year.”

Of course, there is one exception: you can invite four guests to your place if the rules of distance are observed or masks are worn. Many families should take advantage of this, especially since the Interior Minister has already made it clear that the police will not suddenly be at the door instead of Santa Claus. Nevertheless, some Belgians now look enviously at their neighbors. In the UK three households are allowed to celebrate Christmas together, in Germany ten people.

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