The city council of Breda near the Belgian-Dutch border has decided not to grant a permit for an event planned for the coming weekend at which 10,000 people would take part.
The so-called ‘test event’ was arranged to show that mass events could be organised to be Covid-safe, in an effort to open up the events sector, which has been largely closed down in the Netherlands – as in Belgium – during the pandemic.
The people taking part would all have taken a negative test in the 40 hours prior to the event, would be masked and social distancing would be observed.
However the event aroused controversy thanks to its sheer size, and a doctor from a hospital close to the event site started a petition against it. In no time, the petition gathered 368,000 signatures (the population of Breda is 150,000).
On the other hand, one million people signed up online for a ticket for the event, named 538 Oranjedag, while the limit on attendance had been set at 10,000. The event was to be the landmark event in a campaign that would have reached out across the country, with other events featuring audiences of hundreds or thousands.
But the opposition was enough to convince Paul Depla, mayor of the city, to reject a request for a permit. Officially, the reason given was a fear by police of the presence of protestors against anti-Covid measures, at the same time as protestors against the event itself if it went ahead.
Radio station 538, which gave the event its name, said it would seek to organise an alternative. In the meantime Fieldlab, which organised the event itself, also cancelled an event of similar size in Lichtenvoorde near the German border, as a reaction to the negative publicity gathered by the Breda event.
Meanwhile in Belgium, the federal health ministry said minister Frank Vandenbroucke was following the progress of the Dutch test events closely. No such events have yet been permitted in Belgium, although the idea has been floated by the sector. One event planned in Hasselt for the end of April has been postponed to later in May, though a precise date has yet to be arranged.