Large gatherings and parties ‘big middle finger to those respecting rules’, says Van Ranst
Thursday, 25 February 2021
Large gatherings took place at Leuven's city park. Credit: Mohamed Ridouani
Virologist Marc Van Ranst said the young people who gathered in big groups and partied across several cities on Wednesday night are disrespecting those who are not violating the measures.
“These scenes are a middle finger to everyone who does respect the rules, and this shows that the curfew remains very useful,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws.
As a result of the springlike weather on Wednesday evening, many people flocked to squares and parks in Belgium’s cities to enjoy the last of the day’s sunlight.
Under current coronavirus fighting measures, gatherings outdoors are restricted to a maximum of four people, however footage from several cities showed larger groups sitting together without face masks, and not distancing from other groups.
“Several fines were handed out last night, two people were fined for not wearing a face mask, 14 for not complying with the curfew, 11 for gathering and another two for drinking after the ban on alcohol after 8:00 PM,” Ghent Police spokesperson Matto Langeraert told The Brussels Times.
In reaction to the small number of fines handed out in comparison with the large crowd that gathered, he said: “Our priority is not to impose fines, but to enforce measures and to protect people’s safety, and at that point in time we did not think it was the right time to issue an official notice.”
As far as additional measures are concerned, it is up to the federal or local government to impose them, Langeraert said, adding “we cannot decide on them but we can advise on them.”
In Leuven, renowned for being a student city, the police was forced to evacuate and close the city park, as too many people were illegally gathering here.
Just before 6:00 PM, the mayor of Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani, ordered the closure of the park.
“I understand that everyone wants to enjoy the nice weather, but the corona pandemic is not over yet, the measures are there for everyone. There are too many people now, which makes it impossible to keep a distance,” he said on Twitter.
Ik laat het stadspark ontruimen wegens te grote drukte. Alle begrip dat iedereen wil genieten van het mooie weer, maar de coronapandemie is nog niet voorbij, de maatregelen zijn er voor iedereen.
Er is nu te veel volk, wat het onmogelijk maakt om afstand te houden. pic.twitter.com/dbJEToYo65