Belgium's federal government made "an incredible blunder" when it decided to close the schools one week early before the Easter holidays, according to Antwerp mayor and leader of the rightwing N-VA party Bart De Wever.
Last week, several incidents with large groups of young people violating the coronavirus measures to party together, including a gathering at the Leopold de Wael square in Antwerp, near the Museum of Fine Arts, which led to some commotion when police officers intervened.
"It is an incredible blunder to close down education. Small children are taken care of elsewhere, older children and young people have extra holidays, go out on the streets and party and gather," De Wever said on VTM News.
"Two halves of society have emerged: the young people are fed up, they want freedom," he added, "and the other half are older people, or people with illnesses. Both sides are facing each other with drawn knives."
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According to De Wever, reopening the terraces would not be a way to relax the current rules, but a "measure of public order," referring to the fake festival that took place in Brussels' Bois de la Cambre and the video of partying young people on a train.
"I would much rather have all those people now sitting in those parks, on squares and terraces with stewards and a maximum capacity," he said. "The mayor of Amsterdam comes to exactly the same conclusion, but some people in the federal government do not understand that."
The same logic applies to schools, De Wever stressed. "Better to have children in the classroom, in a bubble where you can see them and control them."
"I have four teenagers in the house myself and can only hope that they follow the rules when they get outside, but I have no illusions about that," he added.
However, De Wever is still hopeful about the reopening of the hospitality industry on the planned 1 May date.
"You have to reopen at some point, or the cure becomes worse than the disease," he said. "The epidemic is shrinking now, so there is a little hope. In four weeks' time, it may yet succeed."
The Brussels Times