Belgium braces for Dutch tourists looking to escape lockdown
Belgium is preparing for a wave of Dutch tourists coming to do their Christmas shopping in cities such as Antwerp, Ghent or to benefit from the later closing time of the catering industry, at 11 p.m., now that the Netherlands is in a strict lockdown.
Municipal authorities said they are ready and have deployed extra staff in the shopping streets to manage the crowds.
Virologists have been very concerned about the crowds. "That they come from the Netherlands is not a bad thing in itself, but it should not contribute to excessive crowds," Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said. "Cafés and restaurants are already seeing a lot of Christmas reservations from the Netherlands."
In Antwerp, people reacted indifferently. "It changes little for the catering industry: there are only so many places, and you can only sit with six at the table. It will not be full whether there is a Dutch or Fleming person there. The capacity is what it is," an employee of the Cabinet of Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever said. There are checks in Belgium to see if people are wearing their face masks and shopkeepers must ensure that there are not too many people inside at the same time.
The Consultation Committee of the six governments of Belgium will meet again on Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus situation.
Van Ranst does not rule out that Belgium could also go into lockdown soon. Infection rates of the delta variant are falling in Belgium, where more than a quarter of the population has already had the booster shot. "But the curve of the Omicron coronavirus variant could go up steeply. There is no reason why our country should be an exception," Van Ranst said on VRT Nieuws.
Reporting by ANP