On Friday, Antwerp’s authorities decided to cancel three events of the Christmas festival “Winter Antwerpen,” due to the surge of Covid-19 cases. The festival will still go on, but this year’s program will be drastically reduced. The Christmas market, the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and the traditional New Year’s reception party will no longer take place. The city will also impose additional safety measures on its shopping street, as large crowds are expected for the holiday shopping season. This decision was taken by the city’s crisis unit following the new measures announced by Belgium’s Consultative Committee on Friday.
Antwerp’s Mayor Bart De Wever declared that the decision to cancel three main Christmas events was in line with supra-local measures and was necessary to stop the spread of the virus. According to the current National measures, big outdoor events can take place with a maximum of 100 people, or with more people if the event requires the Covid Safe Ticket. Since the Christmas market is spread in various areas of the city, its practical and safe organisation is impossible. Additionally, the mayor added that exhibitors showed “less and less enthusiasm.” However, De Wever added that numerous events within the “Winter in Antwerpen” celebration will still be safely organized, including the outdoor ice-skating rink and adjoined bar, the Ferris wheel, and the nativity scene.
Similar measures have been implemented in the city of Leuven, which has cancelled its Christmas market earlier this month. Ghent authorities have also officially cancelled its Christmas market, the New Year’s events, and the Sinterklaas parade. In Brussels, Christmas celebrations that started on Friday are still on. To gain access to the entire Winter Wonders route (including food, beverage and souvenir stands), visitors have to show a bracelet indicating that they have a valid Covid Safe Ticket.