As of noon today, Belgium is entering a lockdown to safeguard its citizens against the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. All stores regarded as non-essential will have to close until (at least) 5 April.
Supermarkets: maximum 30 minutes
Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced a series of tougher measures on a press conference, including several that will impact the retail sector quite severely. All non-essential stores will have to remain closed for at least 2.5 weeks: a ban that leaves only stores selling food, medicine, newspapers and pet food open. Gas stations, banks and hairdressers also are allowed to remain open.
Those "essential" stores also have to abide some very strict rules. Supermarkets can only allow one customer per ten square metres of floor space, and each customer can only spend 30 minutes in the supermarket. Hairdressers are even only allowed one customer at each time. Night shops have to close at 22h, food markets are banned if they can not ensure a distance of at least 1.5 metres between customers. Any store that can not live up to these rules, will be fined or even forcibly closed.
The measures do not come as a surprise, following similar decisions in neighbouring countries. Moreover, many chains had already decided to close their doors to safeguard the public and their own employees - some had indeed been pressured into making that decision by their employees or by the public.