Cost of Level 4 terror alert estimated at €52m a day

Summary

With the closure of the metro, schools, cinemas and other businesses, the maximum terror alert in Brussels last week cost the economy more than €50 million

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Economic damage

The increase in the terrorism threat to its highest level in Brussels last weekend and part of last week cost the national economy an estimated €51.7 million a day, according to the VRT TV programme De vrije markt (The Free Market).

The main loss of earnings was due to one in five workers being unable to get to work, either because of transport difficulties such as the closure of the metro system, or because of schools and crèches being closed; some families had no other option for child care. The economic damage from that single cause was an estimated €29.7 million, according to the programme.

The restaurant sector suffered €22 million in losses because of closure at the weekend at the request of Brussels-City mayor Yvan Mayeur, as well as the general drop in customers caused by the situation in the city centre. Many businesses were closed, police and military patrolled the streets and major attractions such as cinemas and concert halls were closed.

At the same time, online sales by supermarkets and other retailers were up, while the private security sector reaped the dividends of an increased threat level. Those figures have yet to be calculated. 

One more arrest

Meanwhile, an additional man was arrested in Brussels late last week in connection with the Paris attacks and is due to appear in court this morning. Last week, the detention of two other suspects was confirmed for a month by the court.

Also at the weekend, Belgium’s public image received a boost from former US ambassador Howard Gutman. Responding to recent international press accusations that Belgium is a “failed state” or a haven for terrorists, Gutman pointed out that the latest Global Peace Index, which measures a country’s safety level, places Belgium in 14th place, while the UK is at 39 and the US at 93. “If Belgium is a failed state,” Gutman said, “then the US must be like Afghanistan”.

Belgium now has to take the initiative and “control the message,” he said, suggesting that corporations sponsor campaigns to show the world that the country is safe and a good place to do business. “The biggest danger in Belgium for me,” said Gutman, “is cholesterol because the food is so good.” he said

Photo: Brussels’ Christmas market is under heavy security this year
©Arie Asona/Demotix/CORBIS