The decision of the Consultation Committee to completely close the hospitality industry across the country is a tough one for the industry. With the argument that there is no scientific basis to designate the catering industry as the major culprit, Horeca Vlaanderen is now even considering legal action. But the report on which the Consultation Committee relied does indeed cite scientific studies that point in the direction of the hospitality industry. Although Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke (SP.A) acknowledges that there was really simply no other choice.
Matthias De Caluwe, CEO of Horeca Vlaanderen, calls it a “pitch-black Friday” and “a dagger in the heart”. The NSZ predicts that October 16 will go down in history as “the death knell for many catering operators”. Comeos speaks of “a blind measure” and “a sledgehammer blow”, the Federation of cafes of “a social genocide”. It is an understatement that the decision to force all cafes and restaurants in the country to close fell badly with the hospitality industry.
Horeca Vlaanderen confirmed on Saturday that it is considering taking legal action, partly because there is no data that can attribute the rising corona figures to the cafés and restaurants. But that the government did not act overnight, proves the report on which it was based, and which could be viewed by the French-language newspaper Free.
That report was compiled by professor and infectiologist Erika Vlieghe (UAntwerpen). It points out that the necessary precautions against the spread of the virus (mouth mask, keeping your distance) are “intrinsically incompatible” with “the typical activities in a restaurant (eating / drinking, talking (loud), sitting close to each other)”. “Masks are not compatible with food and drink. The distance between people at a table is usually less than one meter, especially in cafes (where the consumption of alcohol leads to less social inhibition). And in the indoor areas of catering establishments, the quality of the air ventilation can vary a lot, ”he says.
The note also refers to three scientific case studies. The first is one of the American Center for Disease Control about a group of three families from Guangzhou, China, who contracted 10 infections in the country’s first wave of the pandemic as a direct result of poor ventilation. Reference is also made to the group of 43 skiers who tested positive in early March after spending an evening in a bar in Ischl, Austria.
The third study is an analysis by Japanese scientists who examined 3,184 infections and distilled 61 clusters from them. These took place in hospitals, rest homes, restaurants, cafes, travel destinations and event halls. This shows that the catering industry was responsible for 16 percent of all clusters.
Minister Vandenbroucke: “Unfortunately we must reduce human contacts at all costs”
But in addition to all the scientific arguments, Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke (SP.A) also cites another argument: “In the current context, the debate about the relative importance of the catering industry in the spread of infections is not even the most important. Our reasoning was simple: given the large circulation of the virus, unfortunately we must at all costs reduce the number of human contacts. This must be done without obstructing truly vital activities such as education, businesses, shops and a minimum of human contact within the family. That is why we limit other human contacts wherever possible: by closing the catering industry, by making teleworking the rule, and by setting a curfew. ”