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How shopping centres will keep us safe

This week marks a significant milestone in the gradual withdrawal from confinement. On Monday, May 11, the country’s shops open again after having been closed for many weeks. This welcome evolution comes with a great deal of questioning, however: how can this be made safe, how can we prevent a further spread of the virus through the population... and especially in the dense environment of shopping centres?

To explain the measures taken, there is a rare joint statement from the three largest shopping centre managers in Belgium – Ceusters, AG Real Estate and Wereldhave Belgium (Wijnegem, City 2 (Brussels), Belle Ile (Liège), Waasland Shopping (Sint-Niklaas), Woluwe Shopping Center, Les Grands Prés (Mons), Westland (Anderlecht), Les Bastions (Tournai), Galeries St. Lambert (Liège), Ring Shopping (Courtrai), K in Kortrijk, Nivelles Shopping Shopping 1 (Genk), The Mint (Brussels) among many others.

The three managers have outlined seven different measures which their respective shopping centres (totalling over 1,000 shops) will have to take. These measures are displayed on screens inside the centres and are as follows:

1. Limited parking: some parking spaces may be suspended in order to enable smooth entry and exit and to allow for a distance between parked cars.

2. Separate entry and exit on foot: this ‘distancing’ measure will be accompanied by ‘one way only’ markings for pedestrians inside the centre.

3. Maximum number of shoppers in the centre: this will be controlled in order that the density of one person maximum per ten square metres of surface area in the centre, is adhered to. Filtered entry to the centre, of the sort we have been getting used to in smaller shops, will be applied if numbers start to reach this saturation point (unlikely in the view of the three managers).

4. Hygiene: hydro-alcoholic gel will be available for shoppers, either dispensed by service personnel or from dispenser units, and also within individual shops. Surfaces will also be cleaned during shopping hours in those centres whose size dictates this.

5. Masks: highly recommended by the government but not compulsory; however, the centre managers will make masks available to those shoppers who do not have them (free from Ceusters and AG, with a small charitable donation from Wereldhave).

6. Limited access to shops during peak hours: individual shops will filter entry during these times, to ensure once again that the ‘ten square metres’ rule is applied. To help with flows, certain sitting areas within centres will be closed.

7. Play areas:... and baby corners will be closed; baby changing will remain possible. Shoppers are asked not to bring children with them when this is possible.

Ceusters, AG Real Estate and Wereldhave Belgium point out that all of these stipulations will be constantly monitored, and will be adapted in line with government statements.
Tim Harrup

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