22 Nov 2015

Security clampdown in Brussels extended

Belgium’s terror threat level remains at it highest level, the prime minister said today.

Contrary to some of the rather more excitable reports about the Belgian capital being a “ghost town” the truth is rather more prosaic.

This is Belgium – a country of eight governments and this is Brussels – a city of 19 mayors and yes you read that right: 19.

So if the “authorities” advise restaurants to close they would likely be ignored.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 22: Belgian soldiers with armored vehicles patrol in streets, in Brussels where all stores had to close following the terror alert level being elevated to 4, in Brussels, Belgium, on November 22, 2015. Belgium raised the alert status at Level 4 as 'serious and imminent' threat of an attack, the main effect are closing of all metro line in Brussels, all soccer match of leagues cancel in all country. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In great measure that is what has happened. Of course many did shut their doors but our restaurant last night was packed. And packed mostly with middle-aged and retired customers, not youthful risk-takers.

From Belgium’s rich matrix of governing bodies a variety of statements about the need to be “serene” as Prime Minister Charles Michelle put it yesterday.

So of course the city is quiet. The tourists have no open museums to visit or evening concerts to attend. But then again they have armoured personnel carriers outside the Hotel de Ville and even outside their hotels – very willing to be backdrops for memorable times in this city.

The expected re-opening of the metro system did not happen at 3pm today. Nor the press conference scheduled for around the same time at which said re-opening was to have been announced , or so it was supposed.

Instead it happened early evening and the news is not good. Brussels schools will be shut tomorrow as well as the metro – inflicting serious economic damage on the capital.

In the last hour it seems the security clampdown in Brussels is being extended.

There are now five soldiers outside our hotel instead of two and their helmets are on for the first time. We are currently advised not to leave the hotel. In the last few minutes they have closed the door and are now very jumpy all of a sudden about being filmed.

The real test of all this comes of course tomorrow morning when Monday comes and the city has really to be the city again. The country where many of the Paris attack suspects came from faces real disruption for days and months to come.

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