The time has come to think about the reopening of nightlife in Belgium, the federation for the hospitality sector announced on Monday following reports of mass gatherings across the weekend.
The images of the partying crowds in Brussels this weekend do not come as a surprise, the federation said, adding that it is time to think about the reopening of night clubs.
This weekend, the Brussels police had to intervene in Ixelles to disperse a mass of people near the Place Flagey, as several hundred pub-goers continued the party after the 1:00 AM closing time of the pubs.
"More checks are needed, but they will only push such parties into illegality, in forests or people's homes," Frédérick Dasoghe, responsible for cafés and nightlife at Horeca Brussel, told Bruzz. "We already mentioned on Friday that such illegal parties would take place. We urgently need to find a solution," he added.
Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst was severely critical of the crowds. "This is unwise and undermines support for the corona measures,” he said. Additionally, the Brussels police announced that they would double down on checks.
The federation, as well as its Flemish counterpart, pleads for a later closing hour, which is now still 1:00 AM, to avoid people continuing their gatherings in the street afterwards. "But this shows that we urgently need to think about restarting nightlife," Dasoghe said.
- Brussels police to double down on enforcing gathering ban
- Belgium's National Security Council will discuss next phase on Wednesday
- Police break up crowds of hundreds in Ixelles and Anderlecht
However, pushing back the closing time would not solve anything, according to experts, and only shift the problem to a later hour.
"The later you go out, the more you might drink, the less inclined you will be to keep the 1.5 metres distance. Whether you're sitting at a table or standing on a square," said professor Erika Vlieghe, who heads the Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy (GEES), on Radio 1.
"It is about much more than just a closing hour, the problem is deeper than that. This is about people who do not know how to deal with the new normal," Vlieghe added.
"Nightclubs are aware of the coronavirus measures and want to deal with them in a good way. They are better equipped to control parties, including in terms of alcohol and drugs. People should be able to party in a controlled way," Dasoghe said.
At the previous National Security Council, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès announced that night clubs would have to wait until at least the end of the summer to reopen.
The Brussels Times