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Brussels mayors ask for clarity on Covid measures during Euro 2021
The 2021 European Championships begin on 11 June with Belgium set to play their first game against Russia the day after that. The tournament, which was postponed for a year from the summer of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, traditionally brings thousands of European fans together in stadiums and public viewing areas in a celebration of football.
But with Europe still taking slow and cautious steps towards normality, questions remain about how people will be able to watch and enjoy the games safely and within the current framework of restrictions.
In Brussels, questions related to this dilemma have been raised by the conference of the capital’s mayors who have called for clarification from the federal government.
"This topic came up on the agenda this morning at the request of Charles Picqué (mayor of Saint-Gilles)," said Vincent de Wolf, mayor of Etterbeek, on Wednesday. "We had a long discussion on the subject.
“We know that up to 400 people will be allowed to gather together outside from 1 July,” he added. “If you put big screens on, it's going to be very complicated to manage the flow of people.
"Some mayors recalled that in the past, nearly 10,000 fans gathered in one place. It is therefore difficult to accept only 400 today while having to manage the thousands of people who would be around and unhappy not to be allowed there."
A suggestion was made to open the King Baudouin stadium in Heysel to supporters as a huge viewing venue, but De Wolf explained that such a move would be “outside of compliance with the health framework - and without federal approval, it's not possible to concentrate such an audience in the same place." Other mayors have proposed to turn to smaller stadiums to better distribute the flow of supporters.
"There is also the question of what we do with cafes that install large outdoor-facing screens on their terraces,” De Wolf continued. “We wonder if it reasonable to ban this if we do not have the possibility of installing large screens while imposing this ban will not help the hospitality industry recover from the difficulties it has already experienced.”
Faced with this uncertainty, the conference of mayors decided to send a letter to the senior official of the district of Brussels, Viviane Scholliers. "She is the federal government's representative in Brussels and the idea is to get clear instructions as to what is recommended or not."
The topic will be put back on the agenda of the conference in a fortnight, "so that we can take a unanimous position, if possible, on the issue in order to manage things in the same way in all municipalities," concluded De Wolf.