Postcard from Belgium

2 August 2020
Chefs stage protest about the lockdown in Belgium by laying down their whites

In an effort to escape the madness of Sturgeon’s Scotland, we headed to Belgium to see my aged mother. Our usual route from Hull To Zeebrugge remains unavailable, handling freight only. Clearly, only freight drivers are immune from COVID-19 on overnight crossings! So we stopped off in Kent on route to Dover and spent two wonderful days in a hotel that re-opened the week before our arrival on July 19th. No social distancing, no masks, and people behaving like adults used to in 2020 BC (before Covid). It was liberating

A week before we were due to depart the news came through that masks were mandatory in Belgian shops from July 11th. The Sturgeon curse was following us south. On arrival in Belgium, it was clear people were going overboard. As we approached an open air market, we were met with mandatory hand sanitisation and mask wearing. When I asked an official why masks were compulsory in the market, but not on a pub terrace less than one metre from where I was standing, I was told it was the law. If I did not comply, I would be fined €250 by police enforcers roaming the busy streets. A retailer could be fined €750 for serving me if I wasn’t wearing a mask. We quickly joined the unmasked folk on the terraces for beer and people watching

The madness was ratcheted up even further on July 28th. Initially, a group of 100 town mayors ganged up to impose mandatory mask wearing for pedestrians within their town centres. On the street, walking alone, or in a park within their jurisdictions, masks are now mandatory. Doubtless, the remaining 200 town mayors will follow with breathless urgency to keep everyone “safe”. Masks are now mandatory on beaches along the Belgian coast. And this, in a country that banned total or partial “face coverings” in 2011, the legality of which was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights when two Muslim women claimed it breached their “human rights”. The irony is stark.

There is zero pushback to this nonsense in Belgium. The news is dominated by rising rates of infection in Antwerp and other hot spots, without any data on hospital admissions, or the condition or age profile of the “infected”. A chemist, whom I had regarded  as a sensible woman for over 20 years, told me mask wearing was important to “discipline the people”. A night out with a banker friend, who could usually be relied on as a comrade in arms, made me realise Belgium is lost. He was genuinely concerned for his personal safety, believed what he was being told by the media, and happily complied with his overlords. The guy I had known for decades was no more.

There is now talk of putting Belgium on the naughty list, which would mean a 14-day quarantine on our return to the UK next week. I’m not sure it will have been worth it. The Belgians are lost in their Covid mania, and it’s a depressing shame.

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