Antwerp fears hordes of partying Dutch during New Year’s Eve

Antwerp fears hordes of partying Dutch during New Year’s Eve
The shopping streets of Antwerp have been crowded with Dutch tourists since before Christmas. Credit: Helen Lyons/The Brussels Times

Antwerp’s provincial governor Cathy Berx is concerned that Dutch people will not only continue to flock to Belgium to evade their lockdown and go shopping, but that they’ll also come to the city to ring in the New Year.

The incidence rate of the coronavirus in Antwerp municipalities is rising, reports De Standaard, and so is the number of daily infections.

On top of that, a number of fireworks have been sold in the past few days, indicating that many plan to celebrate the New Year’s holiday as though there weren’t an ongoing and worsening pandemic.

“Whoever sets off fireworks in the city of Antwerp risks a fine of 350 euros,” Berx warned. “I have had this communicated to the Dutch media through our National Crisis Centre.”

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Berx is concerned that accidents involving fireworks, along with drug or alcohol related maladies, would burden Belgian hospitals that are already struggling as medical staff work tirelessly to treat Covid-19 patients.

“We will be on standby that night for crisis consultations,” she said.

Concerns about the holiday shopping season

The start of the shopping period on Monday 3 January could also be very busy, Berx warns: “Too busy in times of a pandemic.”

She would have preferred to see the Netherlands opt for a ‘Portuguese approach,’ meaning no lockdown for the end of year parties, but targeted precautionary measures and a ban on big events, followed by a week’s lockdown after the parties as a kind of collective quarantine to start 2022 with a clean slate.

“That would have been clear and widely supported. Moreover, you would not have any shifting effects,” Berx said.

As it stands now, the Dutch lockdown is scheduled to end on 14 January.

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