The governor of West Flanders, Carl Decaluwé, has warned the mayors of the coastal towns that they are obliged to follow the federal rules on confinement.
The call comes after several of the mayors had expressed anger at the decision of the national security council to ignore their calls for the owners of second homes to be allowed to come to the coast from May 18.
Among others, Bart Tommelein of Ostend, Jean-Marie Dedecker of Middelkerke and Daphné Dumery of Blankenberge has said they would do nothing to stop home-owners from visiting their property.
Decaluwé singled out Dedecker for criticism. He had been quoted as saying, “I call on people to come to the coast all the same. And I will not have the police checking who is coming and who is not.”
In general, the mayors fear a disaster for the bars and restaurants at the coast, which like the rest of the country have been closed since March 14, but which have a limited time to recover as their season is naturally shorter than their counterparts in towns elsewhere.
And while that situation continues, many property owners need to be able to get their properties ready for rental as soon as the bar on holiday travel is lifted.
But Decaluwé was hard on Dedecker.
“He has to follow the guidelines. We are in a federal crisis, and the situation is still serious. This is no time for fooling around.”
One of the tasks of a provincial governor is to implement federal policy on the ground.
“So if I see that the local police are doing things that are blatantly contrary to the guidelines, I will make adjustments,” he said. “In an emergency I can also make arrangements with the federal police.”
And he remained unimpressed by the extent of the rebellion, with more mayors than Dedecker speaking up.
“All the same, they have to do their job,” he said. “So far, the local police zones have done the same, and I can see that from the numbers of the checks they have carried out so far. I assume they will continue to do so.”