The Belgian city of Ghent has taken social distancing rules to the next level for students during a third COVID-19 wave by painting circles in one of its busiest squares and across parks in the centre.
The city, home to some 80,000 students, has painted 100 circles in a large square at the heart of the student district and nearby parks over the past month, an effort reinforced after partying there last week led to clashes with police.
Ghent mayor Mathias De Clercq said the students themselves had come up with the idea, but stressed that, while Belgian COVID rules limit groups meeting outdoors to four, it was not mandatory for a group to sit in a circle.
“Everyone is free to use them or not,” he told Reuters television. “It’s a nice example of nudging, a gentle push towards good behaviour.”
The circles are 6 metres (19 feet 8 inches) in diameter and 4 metres apart.
Students seemed reasonably content with the system as they sat out in the sunshine bathing the country this week.
“In these harsh times, it’s not very easy to meet people and to socialise with your friends. So I think it’s a good solution. It looks a little bit weird, but it’s effective,” said 20-year-old engineering student Elian Colpaert.
Law student Kato Pion said some peers had complained that the lines were tantamount to treating them as infants.
“But I think it is actually good that we are given the freedom to sit on the square, but of course according to the rules,” she said.