Dutch people stuck in UK told to wait it out; No repatriation plans yet
The Netherlands advised its citizens and residents to arrange for a days-long stay in the United Kingdom after the Dutch, Belgian and French governments effectively cut off all transportation links from the UK to the European Union. The decisions taken by the three governments mean that for Monday there were no commercial forms of passenger transportation to allow people to return to the Netherlands.
“For Dutch people who are currently stuck in the UK, the options for providing them with assistance [including at a consular level] are being examined in consultation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, especially for distressing cases,” Infrastructure Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen wrote in a letter to Parliament on Sunday night. “The Cabinet is advising these Dutch people to find safe accommodation for the upcoming days while waiting for opportunities to return to the Netherlands”
The Dutch government was the first country to take drastic measures against the United Kingdom, which entered its own strict lockdown over the weekend after a spike in coronavirus cases. The surge was said to be linked to a new and more contagious mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The Netherlands initially banned the arrival of all passenger flights originating in the United Kingdom starting at 6 a.m. on Sunday, and ending at midnight on New Year’s Day. On Sunday night it also banned all passenger ferries from British ports with immediate effect, and through the end of January 1.
Belgium followed with its own travel ban that also blocked trains originating in the UK from traveling there. Because of that, international rail provider Eurostar cancelled its service to the Netherlands at least for Monday, and would adjust its plans further as governments made their next steps more clear.
Meanwhile, the French government also was preventing any passenger and freight traffic from the United Kingdom, which included blocking anyone from arriving there via the Channel Tunnel. That measure went into effect at 11 p.m. on Sunday, and would remain in place for at least 48 hours, according to the Eurotunnel service.
No announced repatriation plans as EU discusses travel logistics
Earlier in the day, Amsterdam resident Romany Leenhouts told Parool she was unable to return to the Netherlands after attending a family funeral in the UK. She was supposed to return on a KLM flight on Sunday, which was cancelled, and then a Eurostar train on Monday, which was also scrapped.
“At the moment I'm with my family and I'm comfortable here, but I want to go home and see my child,” Leenhouts told the newspaper. “I came here to support my family, not to be a burden.”
Back in June when the Netherlands emerged from the first wave of coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said people traveling internationally should realize it was at their own risk. While the Cabinet worked to repatriate people trapped abroad earlier in the year, the Dutch government was unlikely to come to the rescue of anyone else who found themself trapped because of rapid shifts in travel restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Van Nieuwenhuizen said that all EU Member States were coordinating at a European level to determine when and how ground transportation from the United Kingdom may be permitted. At the same time, cargo and freight were exempted from the Dutch ban, meaning truck drivers and the crew needed to transport goods by aircraft were also permitted to enter the Netherlands.
Mandatory quarantine on return, says Minister
“Travelers entering the Netherlands via the UK - regardless of the mode of transport - must go into home quarantine for at least ten days,” the minister wrote. She did not specify if this quarantine would be enforced by authorities. “Strict adherence to this advice is crucial in the fight against the Covid-19 virus.”
She added, “The Cabinet is aware of the fact that this is a serious measure with major consequences for passenger traffic between the UK and the Netherlands. However, in view of the situation, and recent developments in the UK, the government considers the measure necessary and justified.”