Belgium's coronavirus curfew went into effect at midnight on Tuesday, emptying the capital's streets as police confirmed the measure was well followed by citizens.
A minute after midnight on Tuesday, Brussels' Grand-Place and its typically bustling surroundings were deserted and echoed with steps of police officers on patrol.
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"Last night, the curfew was well respected in a majority of places," Nico Paelinck, the president of the Permanent Commission of the Local Police, told the Belga news agency.
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Footage of the first night of the capital city under curfew showed police surveilling popular gathering spots such as Boulevard Anspach or the pedestrian esplanades in front of Bourse or Théâtre de la Monnaie.
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The month-long curfew bans all residents from coming outdoors from midnight to 5:00 AM, with only essential trips for medical, professional or urgent reasons allowed.
Questioned about Brussels' large and growing homeless population, Paelinck said that they were "no exception" to the curfew and said officers were instructed to alert a shelter or social services.
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"We will not simply leave them on the streets," he said.
Paelinck said that officers would ensure that the curfew was rigorously followed by citizens, saying officers' common sense should prevail, but warning that those who knowingly flouted the ban would be slapped with a hefty fine.
"If the trip proves to be essential, for a medical or work-related reason, there is no problem," he said, adding: "But if we run into students [violating the ban], they will get a fine of €250 each."
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Officers patrolling the streets at midnight on Tuesday could be seen in the footage running into a man on an electric scooter, a pair of cyclists and two pedestrians, whom they urge to get home as soon as possible.
The midnight curfew will remain into force throughout the upcoming autumn break, with Paelinck saying police would keep an eye on pupils and university students to ensure they respect the measure.
The Brussels Times