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No “binge drinking” on the Belgian coast

Drunk young people in Knokke and parents held responsible: the first warnings are issued to future holidaymakers.

Max HELLEFF

Max HELLEFF

Drunk young people in Knokke and parents held responsible: the first warnings are issued to future holidaymakers.

From our correspondent Max HELLEFF (Brussels) – This is another manifestation of the intransigence that will be the order of the day on Belgian beaches. As the Easter holidays ended, hundreds of young people gathered on the beach and on the sea wall of Knokke. Most of them were children of secondary residents. Some young people who had drunk too much had to be taken to hospital. “I do not blame the children themselves”, explained Piet De Groote at the head of the municipality. “It is the parents who must take their responsibilities.”

And the new mayor does not intend to let go of the matter. “14-year-olds who binge drinking and parents who don’t intervene: it’s incomprehensible. Everyone whose address I have will receive a letter from me as burgomaster, clearly stating that those who do not respect the rules of Knokke-Heist are no longer welcome here… ”

In the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, the head of the local police Steve Desmet for his part pointed out “young people of Brussels or Walloon Brabant”. Francophones therefore. “They have nothing to do because of the sanitary measures and meet every night in the same place. We are helpless in the face of this situation, ”he lamented while referring to the deterioration of several beach bars.

During the spring break, the Damme / Knokke-Heist police district recorded 264 violations of corona measurements, mostly related to youth gatherings and non-observance of the curfew. The wearing of masks and social distancing were often absent.

It is clear that the Belgian coast, and Knokke in particular, no longer want to relive the tensions of summer 2020. The rant of mayor De Groote aims to warn all those who confuse the beach with an area of non-health law.

However, the pressure may be enormous on the coast this summer. The Belgian authorities’ decision to end the ban on non-essential travel, in and outside Europe, does not mean that international tourism will immediately regain its cruising speed. The return to normal will depend on the health measures (controls, quarantines, etc.) put in place by the countries of destination, but also on the progress of the national vaccination campaign. However, this could take a leap forward after the decision taken on Saturday to administer AstraZeneca from 41 years old and Johnson & Johnson at any age.

In the meantime, the coast police have no choice but to deal with the overflows as best they can, especially during sunny holidays and weekends. “If we send these young people home, the problem will move home, where the risk of infection is much higher. Nevertheless, we prefer to keep them in sight and in the open air rather than at underground parties. We also don’t want to set off “scenes” on the beach where families are enjoying the sun, “said Police Chief Steve Desmet.

This approach has its limits, however. While the coast was close to saturation last March thanks to a generous sun, the governor of West Flanders Carl Decaluwé had not hesitated to affirm that he would resort to great means if necessary. “If necessary, we will close the access roads (to the coastal stations). This has already happened and it can happen again, ”warned the man who is nicknamed … the“ sheriff ”.


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