Tomorrow is 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, generally considered to be the last major weekend of the summer holidays.
Normally the Belgian coast would be looking forward to a bumper weekend to close off a record-breaking summer, but 2020 is like no other year.
Last week saw a pitched battle on the sands of Blankenberge, while mayors in Ostend, Knokke and Blankenberge used their powers to close entry roads and railway stations, in an effort to turn away day trippers.
This weekend, the weather may not be what it was last weekend, but the Belgian public is unlikely to be deterred by a little thing like inclement weather.
“We will be communicating extensively on Friday about the expectations for the weekend,” said West Flanders’ acting governor Anne Martens (CD&V).
“But I can already say that all coastal municipalities are open, including for day trippers. However that condition could change if it gets too busy. Then municipalities can immediately lock down.”
“Everyone is still welcome here,” confirmed Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein (Open VLD).
“That includes day tourists coming by car or train. It has been clearly agreed with the [rail authority] that the trains may only run at a capacity of 80 percent and that no extra trains will be brought in. If you want to go to the beach, you have to reserve your spot in advance. By the way, there is still a lot of space, both on Saturday and Sunday.”
Knokke, where last weekend police stopped cars and turned back anyone without proof of a good reason for being in the town. This week mayor Leopold Lippens said he would wait until the end of the heatwave before deciding, but on Wednesday it was already decided that day trippers would be welcome this weekend after all.
At Ground Zero in Blankenberge, they await a response from home affairs minister Pieter De Crem (CD&V) to their request for police reinforcements, mayor Daphné Dumery (N-VA) said.
“But to be clear, everyone is welcome, as long as they adhere to the corona measures. And when Blankenberge is full, we will close down and no more people will be allowed to enter.”
She admitted, however, that the people of the town are worried, not least at news that a group of extreme-right hooligans could be planning to descend on the town with the express purpose of causing trouble.
“Blankenberge lost its innocence last week. Hopefully we will get it back someday.”