Antwerp provincial governor Cathy Berx (CD&V) has called for a nationwide ban on fireworks during the coming festive season.
In general, the use of fireworks, whether by individuals or organised groups, requires permission from the local council, although the rule is rarely enforced. This year, the mayors of Antwerp province have unanimously agreed that no such permission will be granted.
The ban is motivated by the curfew, as well as a desire not to encourage gatherings, and a concern that injuries caused by fireworks might put unwanted extra pressure on hospitals.
The same measure is in place in West Flanders, and for the same reasons, governor Carl Decaluwé said.
“The hospitals cannot take in patients with fireworks injuries during this critical corona period,” he said.
The problem comes from the fact that while local mayors or the governor can institute a ban on the use of fireworks, they have no power to stop their sale. Since the use of fireworks by members of the public is virtually never regulated by local councils, the same might be expected of the ban.
Meanwhile across the border in the Netherlands, a nationwide ban is in effect, and both provinces can expect a run on fireworks sold legally here to cross-border Dutch customers.
Whether any local or provincial ban can be enforced is doubtful, Berx admits.
“The police have assured me that enforcement of the ban will be a major challenge,” she told the VRT. “I hope this ban will convince a lot of people not to buy fireworks this year.”
The answer would be a ban on sales, but that is not on the table for the time being.
“As governor of Antwerp, I cannot introduce a ban on the sale of fireworks. That goes beyond my authority,” she said.
“I have raised the matter with the economy ministry and asked them to thoroughly examine whether a ban can be introduced.”
Meanwhile Berx has also called off all Christmas markets, winter villages, ice rinks and other seasonal events until at least 31 January. In West Flanders, Decaluwé has also banned the traditional burning of Christmas trees that takes place annually around Epiphany.