Following the first nightlife test event in Brussels, an epidemiologist at the University of Brussels (ULB) has called on the government to completely reopen nightlife.
Belgium should follow the example of the Netherlands, according to Yves Coppieters, where nightlife has restarted with the help of compulsory testing before an event.
“Young people are hungry for nightlife. However, the necessary protocols need to be worked out, such as, for example, the compulsory display of a coronavirus certificate,” he told La Dernière Heure.
On Saturday 3 July, a test event, ‘Dance again’, took place in La Madeleine in the centre of Brussels, organised by the City of Brussels, the University Hospital Saint-Pierre, the ULB and the federation Brussels By Night.
During the event, over 250 people could party as if the coronavirus crisis has never happened – without a face mask and social distancing – if they tested negative before the event.
A rapid antigen test point was set up at Palace 12 near the Heysel test and vaccination centre, where around 100 samples could be tested every hour, and attendees received their test results and a QR code for entrance by text before the start of the event.
The rapid antigen test point at Heysel.Credit: Belga
At the end of the night, partygoers had to take another test, but the results of these tests have not yet been confirmed. Meanwhile, all nasal swab samples were sent to a university lab for a comparative PCR analysis, of which the results are expected in the coming days.
‘Stricter and more cautious’
In comparison, the Netherlands has been taking several steps to actively open up nightclubs during the summer, with testing beforehand, but “in Belgium, apparently, things still have to be more strict and more cautious,” Coppieters said.
“If the protocols are approved elsewhere, surely that means they are not unreasonable. It seems as if politicians are afraid to give the young people their freedom back,” he added.
He argued that the same principle for travel should be implemented, and that entry should be based on whether people have a coronavirus certificate, with proof of full vaccination, a recent negative PCR test or proof of a recent infection, indicating immunisation.
Coppieters said that these measures, alongside effective ventilation within dance halls, should mean nightlife can once again restart in Belgium.
“We have to learn to live with the virus. The vaccination rate will soon be high enough, so only the infections will increase. Even if there is the threat of stronger variants, nightlife should not suffer as a result,” he argued.
In a city in the east of the Netherlands, Enschede, an estimated 165 out of 600 people who went to a party at a nightclub last weekend tested positive with the coronavirus, even though all partygoers were asked to present a negative test or a vaccination certificate upon entry.
People could only enter with a QR code ticket, which has led to speculations that attendees exchanged QR codes with others to get it, according to reports from De Standaard.