Coronavirus: ‘reopening of schools should be the first step’

Schools should be the first institutions to reopen after the lockdown in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) measures, said Federal Minister for Economy Nathalie Muylle.

“It seems to me that the reopening of schools should be the first step, to resume gradually,” Muylle told Het Laatste Nieuws on Monday, saying she was speaking in a personal capacity, not as an expert.

Schools are currently ordered to provide daycare for children who cannot stay at home, but no classes are being taught. They must remain available to children during the Easter holidays.

“I think that businesses and the end of telework will be next. It also seems logical to me that leisure and gatherings – hospitality and events – should not be the first steps,” Muylle said. As a result of the government’s far-reaching measures, the number of people teleworking has quadrupled.

With the two extra weeks of lockdown that Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced on Friday, Horeca Vlaanderen (the Flemish hospitality federation) calculated that their losses would amount to nearly €1,8 billion, or eight times as much as after the terror attacks in 2016. “Public health always comes first, but we do hope that politicians – and the banks – will have the will to drag the sector through this,” said Horeca Vlaanderen’s CEO Mathias De Caluwé.

The sector will be supported as much as possible, Muylle assured. “We will now assess stimulus measures with each sector,” she explained. “With cafés and restaurants, but also in retail, where there has been a lot of concern recently.”

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Not only the hospitality sector is being hit hard. The government’s far-reaching measures have caused a surge in temporary unemployment as only essential businesses are allowed to stay open. The coronavirus has brought Belgium’s budget deficit to over €30 billion, according to Belgian newspaper De Tijd.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times

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