Isabelle Dekeyzer

Ghent’s Festival of Light will go ahead this weekend despite rise in coronavirus figures

The municipal authorities in the East Flemish city of Ghent say that there has never been any doubt as to whether the city’s Festival of Light would take place this weekend. On Thursday evening the festival, that got under way on Wednesday attracted very large crowds. A total of 240,000 people visited the event on Thursday. Such was the number of visitors that they were sometimes packed in very close proximity to each other in some streets. 

With the number of coronavirus infections rising sharply questions have been raised as to whether it is wise for so many people to be in the same place at the same time even if it is in the open air. 

Such was the number of visitors at the festival at around 8:30pm on Thursday that the city authorities and the police called on people to stay away.

The Ghent City Alderman responsible for festivities and events Annelies Storms (socialist) says that this call will be repeated again during the coming days if the number of visitors already present at the festival necessitates it.

"We are keeping a close eye on everything, both on the festival route itself and on the routes that lead to the festival. If it becomes too busy, we won’t hesitate in taking extra measures again such as telling people not to come to the Festival of Light”.

 

“Sufficient measures in place”

Ms Strorms added that while she has every understanding for the questions that have been posed by experts regarding whether it is responsible to hold such a large-scale events in the backdrop of rising coronavirus figures, she feels that sufficient safety measures are in place.

"We sat round the table with experts and medics beforehand. Due to the rise in coronavirus infections we decided to oblige visitors to wear a mask. Moreover, it takes place in the open air, the route has been made longer and the route is one way to avoid people crossing others walking in the opposite direction. They are also no food or drink stalls so that people don’t hang around. We have already taken numerous measures to ensure safety”.

Ms Storms went on to say that Thursday evening's call to stay away had been effective and that the number of visitors started to diminish gradually thereafter. 

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