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People crowd into shopping streets, police called to Chaussée d’Ixelles
Retail outlets were taken by surprise today at the number of enthusiastic customers who showed up this morning. Today was the first day that shops could be open following a near two-month closure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Mondays are generally slower shopping days, and retailers also assumed that many Belgians would wait a few days for any kinks to be ironed out of the systems in place to prevent coronavirus infections. Both representatives of the sector and scientists were convinced that people would also be tentative about getting into situations where social distancing might be impossible.
“We hope for a balanced start, but also not for too few people,” said Luc Ardies of the Brussels chapter of Unizo, which represents SMEs. “People don’t need to be worried, in any case; safety measures are in place, and we are well prepared.”
They all underestimated people’s desperation to get back to buying. Long lines had formed along Chaussée d’Ixelles, for instance, as well as in the famous Rue Neuve, before shops even opened this morning. Store owners and managers took to the pavement to mark where people should stand as crowds gathered.
Unruly crowds at Action
The most popular spots appeared to be Primark, C&A and Kruidvat, as well as Action, where police actually had to intervene. There were so many people waiting to enter the low-priced variety store on Chaussée d’Ixelles that the line became too long, and police asked people to stop lining up.
This led to conflicts at the scene, however, with one woman being handed a fine for refusing to disperse. Ironically, many people waiting told Bruzz that they were there to buy facemasks, gloves and hand sanitiser.
“It was clearly stated by the National Security Council that people should go home and return later if it was crowded,” said police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere. “We will indeed ask people to comply with that request if we determine that social distancing cannot be guaranteed due to the influx of people.”
In other shopping areas, like Dansaert and Aanspach, is was much calmer, partially due to many of the outlets being closed on Mondays. In other cases, shops chose not to open today to avoid any possible stampedes, choosing to open tomorrow instead.
Photo: Business as usual on Rue Neuve