The police in West Flanders have warned the population that visits to the coastal towns could be met by a fine, even for people who own second homes there.
The measure is an extension of the lockdown in operation elsewhere in the country, where people are ordered to stay indoors unless going out is absolutely necessary, for example to visit the doctor, to take exercise, to shop for food or to go to work where unavoidable.
Police elsewhere were forced to resort to fines when it became clear many people were using the excuse to sit around in the park, to gather in large groups and to ignore the instruction in general.
Then came the problem of cross-border tourists, particularly from the Netherlands, who were coming to Belgium at two points: from Zeeland into the coastal area of West Flanders, and from Dutch Limburg into the Belgian province of Limburg.
That led to the closure of Airbnb, campsites and holiday lets in Limburg, and police patrols on roads leading to the Belgian coastal towns.
Police in the Blankenberge area have today set up road blocks to turn back drivers who have no valid reason for being there – including the owners of second residences. Elsewhere, motorcycle police are patrolling the dunes, and there are even mounted police on patrol. Police will also deploy a drone over the beach.
“We will apply the rules strictly,” said police zone spokesperson Philippe Denoyette.
“Anyone who doesn’t have to be here, will be fined immediately. There will be no prior warning. Non-essential travel to the coast is out of the question.”
Police began issuing fines yesterday, and had handed out 17 in the afternoon, followed by another 15 in the evening. Today being Saturday with fine weather expected, the influx is expected to continue.
“Our zone is very active on social media,” Denoyette said. “You can’t imagine how creative people can be in dreaming up a reason why we ought to let them through. But our message is plain: stay home.”