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Antwerp warns of tougher crackdown on lockdown gatherings

© Belga

Authorities in Antwerp have warned that they will step up the fight against lockdown gatherings after local police broke up nine illegal gatherings over the weekend.

“The time for administrative sanctions is over,” Kristof Aerts of Antwerp’s public prosecutor’s office said. “Whoever gets caught by police in any [lockdown gathering] will immediately get a summons to appear before a judge.”

Aerts’ warning follows a weekend during which police were kept busy in the Flemish city and its surroundings, breaking up lockdown parties, including some with over 40 attendees, including children.

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Just on Sunday, police in Antwerp broke up two separate gatherings, each attended by over 40 people, including children.

A total of 43 people were issued reports at the first gathering, which took place in the morning took place in a local synagogue, while police found 42 at an evening gathering in a private house after they were tipped off by passers-by who reported seeing an unusual number of prams outside, HLN reports.

Throughout the weekend, police drew up reports for over 70 people found at nine separate lockdown parties held throughout the city.

“Organising a lockdown party, or attending it, will entail serious consequences,” Aerts stressed in statements to public broadcaster VRT.

Lockdown offenders who get caught at an illegal gathering will risk between 8 days and 3 months in prison and can incur fines ranging from €208 to up to €4,000.

The prosecutor’s warnings come as officials in the country urge residents to respect lockdown regulations at the approach of the holiday season, with experts and health personnel fearing that a third wave may sweep the country if too many people flout the rules.

“Perhaps this way people will understand that they cannot get away without a sanction so easily during this period,” Aerts said. “It is difficult for everybody and we all need to do our best.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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