Brussels at Near Standstill As Cost of Living March Draws 70000

As the cost of living marches in other countries continue to increase, the city of Brussels has come to a standstill. Public transport operators are running skeleton services and some train lines are operating to allow protesters to reach the capital. Inflation in Belgium hit nine percent in June, mirroring sharp increases elsewhere. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which affected energy prices and supply chains, also pushed up the cost of living in the country. In Belgium, however, the government has taken steps to curb the rising prices, extending sales tax breaks until the end of the year.

While the march continues to attract thousands of demonstrators, the government has taken action to help keep the city safe. On December 18, a Consultative Committee meeting announced the gradual lifting of containment measures. These include restrictions on travel and telework. The next phase of the containment measures is scheduled to begin on February 8, but will be subject to health results. From February 8, some contact-intensive businesses will reopen gradually. As of November 2, there will be no more restriction on non-essential shops.

In the meantime, the government announced a new package of measures to help the economy. The package includes an extension of the short-term work arrangement (June 2021) and three supporting programs. In addition, the government will introduce a three-month payroll subsidy for businesses, which will help them meet their costs. Furthermore, businesses will get financial assistance through a new program that will support mortgage payments for nightclubs.

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