Hiding in saunas and on roofs: How Belgium is dodging the rules
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Hiding in saunas and on roofs: How Belgium is dodging the rules

Credit: Belga

Many people across Belgium are itching to gather like they used to before the coronavirus crisis, and while some resist the urge, others have shown they will go to great lengths to make it happen, even if they are eventually caught.

Across the country – and the world – increasingly inventive stories have made headlines as people try to party. One year after the start of this pandemic, here are some examples of what people have done in Belgium.

Hiding in a sauna

The most recent example is from this Saturday evening when the police raided a birthday party that violated the current measures in Maaseik in the province of Limburg.

When patrolling the area, the police noticed a lot of cars parked outside a catering establishment just before midnight and spotted disco lights and movement indoors.

Upon entering the building to inspect what was going on, the police found what looked like a birthday party, but without any guests. Upon further inspection, the officers discovered all 14 party go-ers hiding in a sauna.

A secret location

In December, the police shut down a party in a warehouse in Laeken, Brussels, with around 100 people from Belgium, France, and the Netherlands, a shisha bar, nitrous oxide, and a lot of alcohol.

A shuttle service had been organised to take the participants to the party, possibly to avoid many people parking in front of the building, according to Olivier Slosse, spokesperson of the police zone of Brussels Capital-Ixelles, who said: “the partygoers may not have known in advance where they were being taken, perhaps to protect the location.”

Indoor barbecues

In Anderlecht, a group of people barbecued inside the garage of the flat’s building to avoid being detected.

However, the grill set off the CO monitor, which in turn alerted the Brussels fire department, and also resulted in the police intervening.

One of the party-goers ended up in the hospital with mild CO poisoning caused by improper use of the equipment, as combustion gases can’t be removed when indoors, meaning they accumulate and can result in intoxications.

Hiding under a rug on the floor

Another lockdown party with 14 attendees in Antwerp was shut down by the police after they received a noise complaint from neighbours.

The resident who opened the door to the officer denied a party was going on, however, a house search found 13 people hiding, some in a closet and in the basement, and one person, simply lying on the floor under a blanket. Others were found lying flat on their stomachs on a nearby roof.

Saved by the fire brigade

Various incidents have been reported of people hiding on the roof or trying to escape via this route.

At another unauthorised gathering in Antwerp, police intervened and detected an open window during a house search, from which they discovered three people hiding on two different roofs, from which they couldn’t get off.

Eventually, the fire brigade had to be called to help the party go-ers down with a ladder truck.

So – what are the rules?

The government has put a big price on violating coronavirus fighting measures, especially for lockdown parties: in December 2020, the price of fines handed out for attending these gathering was raised from €250 to €750, whilst the sum that those organising the events have to cough up more than tripled to €4,000, from €750.

Whether a fine is handed out depends on various factors: the nature of the gathering (alcohol consumption, music, whether it was planned…) and the number of participants, and whether there is a clear desire to ignore the coronavirus fighting measures.

Lauren Walker

The Brussels Times