While the lockdowns across Europe continue, in Belgium there’s one exception to the rules on shopping. Bookstores can remain open because they sell newspapers and some are doing so as a public service.
At Filigranes bookstore in Brussels, only one person at a time is allowed to enter. People can also order their books in advance to pick up at the entrance.
The staff, who are all working of their own choice, will head to the shelves to find the books or games people are looking for.
“If we have to close, we close," says Filgranes owner Marc Filipson. "The way we do now… I don’t know if I respect the rules but I think I respect the rules. But I think that people must read. But if my staff ask me to close tonight, I close tonight. But I will stay.”
The people of Brussels can also ask this store to pick books from the shelves and deliver them to their houses.
It’s not a normal service but the staff say they are doing what they can to support people who are bored and lonely.
The store is also donating one euro per order to the local hospital to buy equipment used to help people who have coronavirus.
While most bookstores are closed, like all businesses they’re considering the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on their futures.
But the owner says working with a non-perishable stock means they should survive.
“Now we have to do the best," says Filipson. "To be together and for sure, the bookstores, if the crisis is for one month, two months, three months, people will always read books so we are very lucky but everybody won’t have the same chance as us.”
For now the Belgian government is allowing bookstores like this to remain open if they’re considered newsstands.
But with the coronavirus still spreading in Europe, lockdown measures could become even stricter.