(Update) Germany will be back in lockdown from Wednesday, with closed stores, schools and cultural institutions. The Netherlands are following this example starting midnight. What is Belgium doing?
More infections and deaths
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Sunday that the country will once again go into hard lockdown from Wednesday 16 December. This means that all non-essential stores will remain closed until 10 January. Only supermarkets, small liquor and food retailers, pharmacies, petrol stations, kiosks, banks, post offices, pet shops, bicycle manufacturers and Christmas tree sellers will be allowed to remain open.
In Germany, the daily number of infections is rising sharply again after a period of stabilisation. Last week, the country had an average of 169 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per day, well above Merkel's target of 50. But even more than the number of infections, the Germans are worried about the increase in the number of deaths. Up to now, the virus has caused relatively few deaths in the country, but the death rate has risen sharply in recent weeks.
On Monday, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced stricter measures: a hard lockdown in which all non-essential stores have to close down has started at midnight and will last until 19 January. Rutte has made it clear on a number of occasions in the past that he is taking a good look at Germany when drawing up his corona policy.
However, INretail, the trade association of retailers, had hoped that the shops could remain open. A spokesman says: "With total closure, you almost shut down the economy altogether. There are 800,000 people working in retail, the majority of whom would end up at home." According to the organisation, it is also not certain that the increasing number of infections is a result of shoppers.
And in Belgium?
In Belgium, the number of infections has fallen sharply in recent weeks, but in the past few days there has been a stabilisation. Most virologists advocate better compliance with the current measures rather than closing stores again. "Of course we can avoid large crowds in the shopping streets, but it is not there that the greatest risks lie, it is in our effective encounters. It is not the stores, but our living rooms that are the places where the virus is gaining strength. What happens behind our front door is of course difficult to control," says Steven Van Gucht to newspaper HLN.
The Consultation Committee will meet again next Friday. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo is not in favour of new entanglements. "We all have to follow the rules much more strictly. The important thing now is to persevere, and to support each other in this. It is not the intention to make your own selection of rules that you follow.”