In an interview with RTL, Minister for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Lex Delles explained that the law defines which products the government deems "essential", such as food.

The new Covid-19 restrictions came into force on Saturday and will be in place until 10 January.

The main changes involve an adjustment of the curfew, which will now start at 9 pm rather than 11 pm, the prohibition of alcohol consumption "on public roads and in places accessible to the public", sports and all other recreational activities being limited to two people, and the ban on the sale of non-essential products.

The first shops already started preparing for the new measures prior to the holidays, among other things by emptying certain shelves.

Other products which will be available for purchase over the next two weeks are pharmaceuticals, hygiene products, glasses and contact lenses, books and newspapers, kitchenware, petrol and combustibles, tobacco and electric cigarettes, as well as telecommunication equipment – mainly mobile phones.

TVs and consoles may not be sold, as well as a number of other products, such as toys or bicycles. Beauty parlours and hairdressing salons have to close their doors. The police will carry out checks to ensure that shop owners are respecting those measures.

However, Delles explained, a merchant is allowed to deliver non-essential products or sell them outside, following an order by a customer.

For instance, if someone wanted to buy a jumper, they could contact the merchant via internet or telephone and tell him what model they want, as well as the desired colour and size. They could then go to the shop and the merchant could hand them the product outside.

Technically, every shop is allowed to remain open, meaning that it is ultimately the individual owner's choice to decide whether it is worth their while. Delles also pointed out that the state will support merchants to cover unpaid costs.

If a merchant records a loss of at least 40%, they are eligible to apply for this new aid. However, Delles added, they were also already eligible for the "relaunch" aid, which starts at a loss of 25% or more. This aid allows merchants to receive €1250 per working employee and €250 per employee in partial unemployment.

However, most merchants seem to prefer leaving their shops open. 3 January should have marked the start of the New Year's Sales. This event has been cancelled for the time being, with Delles adding that he did not known when the sales could take place.

According to the Minister, the sales have to take place at a time when it is still opportune for people to take advantage of bargains.

Delles ruled out the possibility of organising the 2021 sales exclusively online.