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Port of Antwerp remains open during city’s Covid restrictions

13:32 01/08/2020
From Flanders Today

The Port of Antwerp will be staying fully operational during increased coronavirus restrictions introduced by the province and the National Security Council. Its emergency taskforce agreed that keeping the site open was a priority for maintaining the country’s supplies.

Until now, only isolated cases of the virus have been confirmed among workers at the port, and managers have not reported a rise in absenteeism due to illness compared to last year. The taskforce will continue to monitor the situation and will impose additional measures if necessary.

All incoming ships must present a Maritime Declaration of Health, with which the captain must indicate 24 hours before entry into port whether there are any infected people or suspicions of illness on board, as well as a list of the last 10 ports of call. The ship is then screened by public health officials.

The port also applies basic preventive hygiene measures such as supplying disinfectants, exchanging documents digitally to minimise physical contact, and having crews of ships and quayside staff communicate primarily by radio or telephone.

Social distancing rules also apply between staff at the port. In April, the site was chosen by the local technology start-up Rombit to test its Covid-19 sensor bracelet, which alerts workers when they come too close to each other. It also logs contacts with other bracelets to facilitate contact tracing in the event of infection.

Despite the impact of the crisis on global production and logistics chains and a drop in demand, the economic damage for the port has remained limited. Total goods throughput fell by 4.9% in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019.

“We are an important link in the chain between producers and consumers, and as such a perfect barometer for the global economy,” said Annick De Ridder, the councillor responsible for the port.

“Much will depend on how quickly industry is able to start up again and consumer confidence to return. As the Antwerp port community, we’ve remained 100% operational during this global crisis and our knowledge and experience are recognised as a valued trademark all over the world.”

With infections rising, Antwerp province has imposed a curfew from 1.30 to 5.00 in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus. Non-essential outings are banned during these hours and cafes and restaurants must close by 1.00. Remote working is required except when it is impossible to do so, and masks must be worn in public at all times, except when eating or drinking.

Photo courtesy Port of Antwerp

Written by Flanders Today