As the terraces of bars and restaurants in the Netherlands have opened again since noon on Wednesday, Belgian residents are being urged not to cross the border to grab a drink.
From today, Dutch terraces are open between noon and 6:00 PM, for a maximum of two people per table (unless it concerns a bubble), and up to 50 people per establishment.
“Together with my Dutch colleague, I am asking people not to go to the Netherlands to go sit on a terrace,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told VRT. “We know the need is high, many people are looking forward to a terrace, but these kinds of trips are not essential for us. Please, be patient a little longer.”
“Avoid unnecessary travel, and come back to the Netherlands in better times,” said Dutch Justice and Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus. “The Dutch, Belgians and Germans have to keep their distance from each other now.”
Antwerp governor Cathy Berx is also advising everyone not to cross the border to the Netherlands to grab a drink, pointing to the continuing pressure on hospitals in Belgium. “For the whole of Belgium, there are 83 beds available in intensive care, which is extremely low,” she said on regional radio.
On the Dutch side of things, the authorities took to Belgian radio to stress that “it was not the intention” that people would start planning trips just to go sit on a terrace on the other side of the border, but also added that there will be no controls in bars or restaurants.
“Our hospitality people keep to a maximum number of people on their terraces, but no nationality is asked,” they said. “So, whether you are Dutch or Belgian, the terraces are open.”
While Annemarie Penn, mayor of the Maastricht town just across the Dutch border, also admitted that she could not forbid Belgians from coming now that the travel ban was lifted, she called on Belgians to “show solidarity, and be patient a little longer.”
However, the coronavirus figures on the Belgian side of the border are not good, with the municipality of Maasmechelen even sticking to the “outdoor bubble” of four people, instead of the 10 people that have been allowed since Monday 26 April.
“I am a little concerned,” mayor Raf Terwingen told TVL on Tuesday. “The infections in my municipality are still extremely high. So it is also wise for Dutch people not to come to Belgium, but closing the borders is not our competence.”
The Netherlands still requires a 10-day quarantine of anyone entering the country, with exceptions for border workers or people crossing the border for other essential reasons, Axel Dees, spokesperson for Dutch Health Minister Hugo De Jonge said last week.
The quarantine can be shortened to five days after a negative Covid-19 on day 5, but “going across the border just to have a beer on a terrace is not possible,” he added.