Brussels police to double down on enforcing gathering ban

Brussels police to double down on enforcing gathering ban
© Belga

The Brussels-Ixelles police zone will increase police presence to enforce coronavirus rules after hundreds defied lockdown rules in two eye-catching gatherings at the weekend.

Police zone chief, Michel Goovaerts, said on Twitter that more officers would be deployed in Ixelles and in the City of Brussels to ensure social-distancing is respected "in everybody's interest."

The news comes after state virologist Marc Van Ranst hit out at police for failing to prevent two events at the weekend which drew hundreds of people to Ixelles, Brussels and Anderlecht.

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"As police, you have to know that and to try to prevent so many people from gathering — so, act a little sooner," Van Ranst said in a televised interview.

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in Place Jeu de Balle in the Marolles district of Brussels for impromptu Carnaval celebrations.

The attendants later moved to a vacant lot in Anderlecht where they danced and played music around a large bonfire, with police only breaking up the event at around 5:00 AM on Sunday.

In Ixelles, police said several hundred people crowded Place Flagey after bars closed at 1:00 AM, and continued the party into the night.

"It is not the time to do this yet," Van Ranst said. "Where have these people been, do they remember nothing of the past months?"

"We still have more [new] cases per day than in Beijing, for example, where people are deeply concerned and taking new measures," he said, Bruzz reports.

Van Ranst criticism also echoes comments by Steven Van Gucht of federal public health institute Sciensano, who expressed concern over the crowds being drawn into bars and restaurants after they were allowed to reopen.

Speaking to RTBF, the mayor of Anderlecht said that police chose to not use force to disperse the revellers. Officers intervened in the early hours of Sunday, asking people to leave, with no reports or fines issued.

The mayor of Ixelles, Christos Doulkeridis, also announced stricter enforcement of the rules, tweeting on Sunday that no more events would be tolerated at the same time that he said that having police play cat and mouse with residents would proof "exhausting."

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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