• Meuse-Rhine Gazette

Belgian authorities ask Dutch residents to stay away

Belgian virologist Steven Van Gucht and Mayor of Maasmechelen Raf Terwingen call on residents in the Netherlands not to come to Belgium if non-essential shops in the Netherlands are indeed to close. In Belgium, non-essential shops, such as clothing and furniture shops, have just reopened after a month's closure on 1 December.

As reported by Dutch provincial broadcaster 1Limburg, Van Gucht recognises that it is difficult to keep people at home.

"We ask the Belgians not to travel either, but it is especially difficult in border regions. Now the shops are open, but contact professions remain closed in Belgium. Then you see that many Belgians still go to the Netherlands to get their hair cut.

Raf Terwingen, Mayor of Maasmechelen, is also concerned about visitors from the Netherlands arriving en masse. "We certainly don't have the ambition in Maasmechelen to become the 'Christmas shop walhalla of Western Europe', then we'll get into big trouble", he says.

He has let it be known that Gemeente Maasmechelen will count the Dutch and German license plates at Maasmechelen Village (designer outlet shopping village) and will come up with measures where necessary.

In November, it turned out that many Belgians do not take much notice of their Nationaal Crisiscentrum's urgent advice not to travel unless it was necessary. Many Belgians went shopping in the Netherlands. On the last Saturday of November, at least 85% of the shopping public in the city centre of #Maastricht was of Walloon origin, Gemeente Maastricht estimated at the time.

Based on the figures on new infections and hospital admissions in Belgium, Van Gucht sees no reason to close the shops again now. "That is a political decision". He finds the figures in the Netherlands worrying and points to 'the dynamics of the virus'. That's why experts prefer not to see residents of the Netherlands heading to Belgium.

Van Gucht argues for more coordination between the EU Member States on their Covid-19 regulations, including in the field of tourism. "We have open borders in Europe, but no health union. That is not useful for managing a pandemic", he observes.

Photo: Maasmechelen Village Christmas decorations © Maasmechelen Village Want to practice your Dutch? Read the original article on the 1Limburg website.

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