The mayor of the northern city of Turnhout has made an appeal to his colleagues across the Dutch border to take action to stop Belgian youths from crossing the border to drink in bars.
Bars across Belgium closed at midnight on Friday until 3 April, with no exceptions. Alcohol remains freely available in grocery shops and night-shops, however.
That hasn’t stopped groups of youths living in border areas from crossing over into the Netherlands to take advantage of the fact that bars there remain open.
Now Turnhout mayor Paul Van Miert has written a letter to three fellow mayors – John Jorritsma of Eindhoven, Theo Weterings of Tilburg and Paul Depla of Breda – calling on them to take action.
The difference between the two countries is counterproductive, Van Miert writes.
“The virus mutates and spreads with remarkable speed, and a Belgian-Dutch cross-contamination is something we can use like a hole in the head at this time,” the letter says.
“My I politely ask as the mayor of one rather small city if you could throw your weight as mayors behind this cause, and try to convince your government to bring the guidelines and rules into line with those of your neighbours to the south?”
Van Miert intends to send the letter tomorrow, but has released the contents today. He will also be contacting the Dutch mayors by telephone.
“Let us tackle this threat to our people, north and south of the border, with equal force, to give everyone the possibility of a corona-free society, in Belgium and in the Netherlands,” he concludes.
Elsewhere, towns over the border in Zeeland have already experience a flood of visitors from Belgium, in towns like Sluis, Terneuzen and Hulst.
There, complaints have come from members of the public on social media, expressing misgivings about the health consequences and describing the behaviour as “irresponsible”. The Dutch government is due to meet today to decide what further measures they need to take, if any.