On Thursday evening, some 240,000 people filled Ghent's city centre to experience its light festival, packing streets with sauntering spectators.
Health experts, among them virologist Marc Van Ranst, have questioned the safety of the festival as the number of coronavirus infections in Belgium continues to rise. However, the city's authorities have said the show will go on.
"At one point it was a bit too busy, resulting in us putting a call out around 8:30 PM, urging people to stop coming into the city," the spokesperson for Annelies Storms – city councillor for Festivities and Events – told The Brussels Times.
"It is difficult to predict whether even more people will attend the festival this weekend," she said, stressing that certain health measures are in place.
A Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is not required to access the festival, however, face masks have to be worn at all times throughout the route which was extended to 7.2 kilometres for crowd control purposes. There are no food or drink stalls on the route, to further avoid people hanging around.
"We will deploy additional manpower to ensure that this rule is followed. We will also look to add extra bypasses to spread the crowds. However, such measures will be looked at from moment to moment," Storms' spokesperson added.
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The organisers noted individual exhibitions can be switched off if too many people are gathered in one place, however, so far, this measure hasn't been taken yet.
"We need to look at whether that is a good solution to the overcrowding issue. Most of the time we find it's not a good solution, but that it is better to continue so crowds will also move on."
The festival’s fifth edition, including 32 works created by Belgian and international artists, will run until Sunday 14 November. The installations will be lit up from 7:00 PM until midnight except on Sunday when the Light Festival will start at 6:00 PM. More information can be found here.