Coronavirus: shopping in neighbouring countries allowed again
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    Coronavirus: shopping in neighbouring countries allowed again

    Credit: Belga

    Visiting family across the country’s borders is possible again from today, but the Ministerial Decree making that official shows that shopping in neighbouring countries is also allowed again.

    “At the moment all conditions are met to visit family again across the national border,” said Interior Minister Pieter De Crem on Friday. The Ministerial Decree, published on Saturday, also indicates that shopping abroad is also allowed from today, something De Crem did not talk about.

    “Non-essential travel to and from Belgium is prohibited. By way of derogation from the first paragraph, it is permitted to visit family members living in neighbouring countries, subject to the conditions laid down in Article 5bis, paragraphs 2 and 3, as well as to shop in a neighbouring country,” the Decree stated.

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    “You can go shopping, with a form of necessity,” De Crem told VRT NWS in a reaction. “So it is not recommended,” he added. The static border controls are also being replaced by mobile units, he said.

    “We have been asking for family visits across the border for a long time,” said Michel Carlier, acting governor of the Limburg province, which borders the Netherlands. “Shopping is now added to that. I think the timing is somewhat unfortunate, because the Netherlands is easing the coronavirus measures faster than Belgium. The hospitality industry there will open on 1 June,” he told VRT.

    “De facto, this means that the borders will reopen, because there are no more criteria to enforce,” Carlier said, adding that it is not necessary to prove a family relation for people wanting to cross for shopping purposes.

    However, in practice, many people have been sent back at the border.

    Even though the measure does apply, and has been entered in the Belgian Official Gazette, not all police stations in neighbouring countries have been informed yet, Minister of Foreign Affairs Philippe Goffin told RTL. Communication could take several hours, he added.

    Update: France has since stated that it will not allow Belgians to enter its territory before 15 June. Read more about it here.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times