Belgium mulls limiting beach trips to ensure social distancing

Belgium mulls limiting beach trips to ensure social distancing

Belgium could move to limit trips to the coast in a bid to relief overwhelmed local authorities trying to uphold coronavirus rules in beaches packed by day-trippers seeking relief from an ongoing heatwave.

Provincial authorities in West Flanders said that trains in the direction of the coast were filled to the brim, saying that some arrived at the coast at a capacity of 115%.

"This capacity must be scaled back," Governor Anne Martens said. "If coastal towns are already packed, additional people must not be transported to the sea."

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During the first weekend of a heatwave set to last until at least the middle of this week, tens of thousands of people hopped on trains in the direction of the coast.

As temperatures climbed to mid-30s at the weekend, some 15,000 people flocked to Ostende, 8,000 to Blankenberge and 2,500 to Knokke Heist, according to DH.

The flow of day-trippers strained the capacity of coastal mayors to ensure that coronavirus regulations, such as face mask requirements and social distancing were maintained.

On Saturday, a major brawl between a group of around two dozen youths and police officers brought chaos to a beach in Blankenberge after officers attempted to enforce social-distancing guidelines.

The row prompted Blankenberge Mayor Daphné Dumery to shut down access to the city's beaches on Sunday, banning rail arrivals to the local station between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Blankenberge's move was mimicked by the mayor of Knokke Heist, Léopold Lippens, who on Monday announced that the high-end resort town's beaches would be shut to day-trippers until the end of the heatwave.

Interior Minister Pieter De Crem is set to hold a meeting on Monday in which a decision is expected on whether to cancel a recent move by rail operator SNCB to roll out additional trains to the coast, according to Martens.

The provincial governor said that De Crem would also consider the possibility of restricting the capacity of trains operating according to the regular schedule.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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