The number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands now stands at close on 3,000. Meanwhile, Belgium has introduced stringent rules to combat the spread of this virus in that country.
Residents of North Brabant who think to fill up the car’s petrol tanks cheaply there could risk getting fined a substantial amount of money. A special police force is strictly monitoring the border crossing. “People who do not listen could end up being fined,” they say.
In recent days, there has been an enormous increase in the number of Dutch people who are refuelling in Belgium. “It is busy, extremely busy. I have noticed it myself. The queues at the petrol stations are longer. That is exactly what we want to avoid. We would like people to practice social distancing”, says Patrick de Smedt of the Belgian police. He is speaking on behalf of the people in the border towns of Essen, Wuustwezel, and Kalmthout.
In Belgium, people are only allowed on the streets for specific purposes. This includes providing home care or if someone has an essential job. People can also be out to drop off and pick up children from daycare centres. It has therefore been decided to take strong action against people from the Netherlands who got to Belgium to fill up.
“We have had control teams on the roads since Thursday. They are specifically looking out for this”, says De Smedt. The rules are clear as well – refuelling abroad is not necessary. “The Dutch who come to refuel here are not complying with the rules. Here in Belgium, the rules are simply stricter.”
De Smedt is not the only person bothered by this. There is also immense frustration online among the locals over this ‘petrol tourism’. “But that is not the reason for the extra checks. We just want people to comply with the rules. This also applies to Belgians. But the anger among the local population does play a factor”, says De Smedt.
However, he indicates that no fines have been issued yet. “The first step is to raise awareness. We will warn people and send them away. But those who do not listen will get a fine. “The question is not if, but when will the first of such fines be given. “There will certainly be violations. There will be action against the diehards”.
The fine is not small either – people will have to pay €4,000. That is not without reason, says De Smedt. “The fines are deliberately high. We did that because we really want to maintain firm standards.” He further adds that he had also raised this at a national level.
“We want to clearly communicate the rules of the situation as they apply in Belgium. This is going to be discussed at the national level. We have already communicated this to the national crisis centre.” De Smedt wants to makes it crystal clear – “People, refuel in your own country.”
Editor: Melinda Walraven