Antwerp: How Will The New Strict COVID-19 Laws Affect The Frum Community?


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As Belgium implements new restrictions to stem the tide of a soaring rate of coronavirus infections, the province of Antwerp has instituted even more stringent restrictions due to the particularly high rate of infections in the area, with 55% of all new infections in Belgium in the Antwerp district.

Provincial officials in Antwerp, Belgium’s most populous province, are imposing a curfew on the province, barring all residents from leaving their homes from 11:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Cafés and restaurants must close their doors by 11 p.m.

Customers at cafés and restaurants must register their names and contact information before eating and 1.5 meters must be maintained between customers. All residents above the age of 12 must wear masks in public areas, the sale of alcohol is banned from 10 p.m., all gyms must close their doors, working from home if the position allows for it is compulsory, and all public events are banned.

The new restrictions will be in place for the next four weeks. “For the sake of your health and that of your loved ones, don’t come to the province of Antwerp and don’t leave the province to go party elsewhere,” Antwerp Governor Cathy Berx said.

Antwerp’s restrictions are in addition to those instituted by Belgium’s National Security Council for all Belgians, including limiting social contacts to five fixed people per household (reduced from the previous 15), reducing group trips to ten people, reducing the number of people allowed at events to 100 inside and 200 outside, and banning contact sports. There are also regulations regarding shopping: shoppers must shop alone and are limited to 30 minutes in each store.

Regarding the frum community, shuls remain open, with the number of mispallelim allowed in accordance with the size of the shul. Chazzan Rav Yisrael Miller said in an interview with the Hebrew news site Chazit that: “currently the girls’ schools are already on summer vacation. The chadarim are continuing to operate as usual. Personally I instructed my children to stay at home. We see what’s going on and we have to be machmir.”

According to R’ Miller, when the second wave began in Belgium, there were a number of cases in the frum community which sparked anti-Semitic discourse, with some saying that the infections among Belgian Jews are due to Israel, which meanwhile had become a “red country.”

Belgium has had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths relative to its population in the world, with 85 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)