Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas in French) will not have to go into quarantine when he travels to Belgium at the weekend, two government ministers have said.
In a letter written to the Saint, federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (sp.a) and his colleague, home affairs minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) assured him he would not be obliged to go into quarantine, despite travelling from a red zone. In addition, the nationwide curfew from 22.00 to 06.00 will not apply to him and his helpers, to allow them to deliver gifts to the nation’s children.
The arrival of the Saint and his entourage is usually greeted by crowds of children, but measures taken to stop the spread of Covid-19 have made such gatherings impossible this year. However the arrival and the subsequent procession will be broadcast on television as usual.
Earlier this month the Saint himself sent a video message to the children of Belgium, in which he promised to perform his duties despite the restrictions.
“Even if I have to go over the rooftops in a space suit, I will be there,” he said.
But a space suit will not be required, the two ministers wrote.
“The Royal Decree to this effect will soon be published in the Belgian Official Gazette and has the following legal grounds: the trip with your steamboat from Spain takes 17 days, which is 7 days more than what we ask for and so that period is more than sufficient as quarantine.”
However they also advise caution while here.
“We do recommend that you always keep your distance, wash your hands sufficiently and wear a face mask where necessary. With your mitre and your long white beard, the latter may not be fun. A Spanish virologist also confirmed to us that your beard protects you sufficiently and serves as a mask.”
And for once, the Saint will not have to check in his list to see which children have been good and which have not. The times have been difficult, the ministers explain, but all children have behaved well.
“Not only to protect themselves, but especially to protect others. Mums and dads are doing their utmost during this holiday week to give them extra attention, but this year they deserve your visit more than ever. Every child here is a hero, so you don’t have to check in your big book for once.”