After so many people showed up on Saturday that it was no longer corona-safe, Brussels and Bruges are taking measures to counteract a new crowd. In Brussels, the police will filter the influx towards the Grote Markt better, the Wintergloed light trail in Bruges will be canceled at all tonight and next weekend.
After the first twilight on Saturday evening, it was very busy at the Brussels Grand-Place where many people gathered to look at the Christmas tree and accompanying lighting. Mayor Philippe Close (PS) has already urged Twitter to follow the covid-19 rules.
All the lights will remain, but the police will provide extra patrols to be able to filter at the entrances. That says police commissioner Olivier Slosse to the news site BRUZZ. If necessary, certain streets can be temporarily closed if too many people show up.
Also in other places in our country there were many people on the road last night. For example in Bruges, where ‘Wintergloed’ was opened on Friday evening. The outdoor light trail attracted too many people, according to the local police. He called on not to come to Bruges again this weekend. “It is no longer corona proof,” said the spokeswoman. “Stay away.”
On Sunday morning there was a meeting with the city and the police to see how they can organize the open-air event corona proof. ‘We then decided not to organize a Winter Glow this evening or next Friday and Saturday,’ said Mayor Dirk De fauw (CD&V). ‘We first have to look at how we can avoid bottlenecks in certain light installations in the future. For example, in some places we will opt for one-way traffic for pedestrians. ‘
There will be no Winter Glow next weekend either. ‘At the same time, it is also the first weekend that the shops are open again and we want to avoid crowds. The opening of the stores is now taking precedence. But it is clear that people are yearning to get out, that explains the crowd’s march last night. ‘ De fauw emphasizes that the light installations in the city center are lit during the week and that everyone remains welcome.
‘Events must be possible’
Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) said in an interpretation program The Seventh Day that she had been in contact with the mayors of Bruges and Brussels about how to organize the light events more safely. “Images like this were absolutely not conducive,” said the minister.
‘The mayors have assured me that additional measures are being considered, such as counting people and providing one-way traffic. But also more police. ‘ According to the minister, such events should be possible when organized safely.
‘Anything We Didn’t Want’
Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) also voiced in the interpretation program The Seventh Day his concern about the light shows in Brussels and Bruges that attracted many people on Saturday. “What happened there is everything we didn’t want,” Jambon said. “I am very worried about that.”
On Twitter, the local policy of Brussels and also the mayor are getting the wind from the front. ‘This is outrageous and you are responsible for it’, it sounds. Or also: ‘What does Minister Vandenbroucke say about this? No fines? There will only be three of you at the Christmas table. ‘ Virologist Marc Van Ranst also responded on Twitter: “Some people will never understand.”
In The Seventh Day Erika Vlieghe also reacted negatively. ‘I understand that the people are there, that they need it. But it is not good that they are there with so many. I also see a lot of people without a mouth mask. ‘
Vlieghe wonders how that could have happened. ‘Why is that not being maintained? Why does there have to be another “oops” moment now? We still have many months to go, let’s get it right now. ‘
Also busy elsewhere
Not only the light shows mobilized many people. For example, it was very busy in Antwerp near the Vogelenmarkt.
In Liege it was busy on the street on Saturday evening because of a protest against curfew. It brought about 400 protesters on their feet. Keeping a safe distance was not always possible, most protesters did wear a mouth mask. The police decided to intervene around 10 pm because people were not going home.
The images from Brussels and elsewhere in the country do not bode well for the coming days and weeks, when the stores will also reopen and people will go Christmas shopping. Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke emphasized on VTM Nieuws on Saturday evening that the shopping Sundays cannot continue if the local authorities cannot guarantee that it is safe.
‘There is a very important part of the new decision that Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden is writing. That reads: if a mayor cannot guarantee that it will not be crowded and that the safe distance of one and a half meters can be kept in the shopping streets, then the shops may not be opened. ‘