Antwerp announces curfew to get COVID-19 cases under control

The people of Antwerp are going under curfew between 11.30 pm and 6.30 am as the city tries to get its COVID-19 numbers back under control.

Over 70 per cent of cases in Belgium are now focused in the northern city.

In restaurants here, the kitchens fell silent with the news.

“There is nobody, we had only two people in this noon, this evening we are closing. We have more cancellations than reservations,” says Patrick Verheire, chef at Marcel Restaurant.

The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest-hit by COVID-19 and many businesses say they won’t survive, despite having to invest in protective measures.

But with over half of Belgium’s new infections focused in this area, some people are being understanding about the measures.

“They’re afraid that people are going to get a little drunk and get together to close after half-past midnight. I understand they’re trying to take a small measure instead of a very big one,” says Martina, a Dutch visitor in Antwerp.

Additionally, a campaign by the service sector is being launched to look into legal action against Belgium’s chief epidemiologist for telling people not to come to Antwerp.

“Since his message, the city of Antwerp has become a ghost town all the restaurants are empty and the bars are also empty, so it’s a pity that his message was a little bit too frank,” explains Johan Tisson from Help de Horeca.

The head epidemiologist Marc van Ranst has replied on Twitter saying their first priority must be to control the virus to prevent another full lockdown.

In Antwerp, there are also additional measures like mask-wearing everywhere and shopping restricted to solo trips.

The divisions here may be a forewarning of battles to come over COVID-19 measures.

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