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A relaxing wind blows over Belgium

If the borders remain closed, the signals favorable to travelers multiply. Access to second homes is again authorized.

Max HELLEFF

If the borders remain closed, the signals favorable to travelers multiply. Access to second homes is again authorized.

From our correspondent Max HELLEFF (Brussels) – At the European level, it’s cacophony. Italy will reopen its borders to tourism. Greece will follow in mid-June. France hopes to receive its foreign guests this summer. More radical, Spain has decided to extend the alert measures at least until June 6 … And Belgium? Officially nothing has changed. The website of its embassy in Luxembourg recalls that “in the context of the coronavirus crisis, the Belgian government has decided to ban all non-essential travel abroad, until June 7 inclusive.”

A special scheme even applies to frontier workers traveling to the Grand Duchy. In the other direction, and unless duly justified exception, crossing remains prohibited. Belgian police wanted to remind them of the “non-essential” travel rule on the eve of the Ascension weekend, threatening to verbalize any offender, whether Belgian or foreign.

However, there is relaxation in the air. At the diplomatic level, the Belgian, French, Dutch, German and Luxembourg representatives met last weekend to discuss the gradual lifting of restrictions that hinder their common borders. On Wednesday, ten countries (including Belgium, France and Luxembourg) agreed on a “progressive step approach coordinated and agreed between the EU and Schengen (area) member states” with a view to achieving success. a progressive normalization of cross-border travel and the reopening of border posts.

Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin insists that lifting border restrictions depends on the similarity of approaches between Belgium and its neighbors when faced with the disease and the control of contamination.

Good news: the figures show that the successive phases of deconfinement have not relaunched the pandemic in Belgium. It remains for the Belgian authorities to convince their partners that it is the statistical method used which explains such a high number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus on the national territory – more than 9,100 deaths. It is fairly easy to explain that this tally is too broad since it includes the deaths in a nursing home without it being checked whether or not they were reached by the Covid-19. Obviously, it is less politically simple to recognize that, if we had to resort to such a bias, it is because Belgium was ill-prepared to resist the epidemic.

Accessible second homes

Concretely, this beginning of the Ascension weekend sent a series of positive signals to travelers and tourists. Brussels Charleroi Airport has decided to reopen on June 15. Ryanair, his favorite airline, is booking reservations for this summer – although officially there is no guarantee yet that the borders will be lifted.

Above all, since Wednesday, access to second homes is again authorized. Under pressure from hundreds of owners ready to sue the state, then mayors of the coast and finally the Flemish government, the National Security Council finally gave in. Precision : A household, regardless of its size, is allowed to accommodate at home or in its second home up to four people. These four people are always the same. ”

For the moment, the measure only concerns Belgians. But it’s hard to see the Coast giving up hosting Luxembourgers and Germans who keep their tourism alive all summer. Ditto for the Dutch in the Ardennes.

The lifting of restrictions on second homes was not expected at least until next week, when a new National Security Council could possibly decide on other phases of deconfinement. There is therefore an acceleration, motivated in large part by the only question that preoccupies the Belgians today: where are they going to take their holidays? Keeping the borders closed would certainly be a national trauma.

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