Crossing the border, despite code orange: ‘The mouth mask goes off immediately’


She is enjoying the sun today. But Nicolien Kroon is also very fed up in her Belgian garden. The RTL meteorologist moved from Roosendaal to the Belgian border town of Essen in February and is feeling the impact of the new travel advice.

“It seems that I will unfortunately not be presenting the weather in the near future,” Kroon says by telephone. “As a public figure I always adhere to the rules and therefore I cannot go to Hilversum.”

Number of infections increased

The Netherlands tightened up the travel advice for the Belgian province of Antwerp this week. It is now recommended to visit that province only for necessary trips. The reason for giving that area code orange is the number of infections that have increased there recently.

Belgians responded quickly to that Dutch decision. The entire Netherlands was declared an orange area for the inhabitants of the province of Antwerp. For them, too, there is urgent advice, like Dutch people who return from a visit, to go into quarantine for 14 days.

Risk area

Whether those rules are really listened to? Not if you ask people who live and work in the border region. “As many Belgians come to shop for groceries as last week,” says Guido, who works at a supermarket in the Dutch town of Reusel. “The mask goes off here immediately. It sometimes seems like a kind of release from the strict measures at home.”

Despite those southern neighbors coming from a risk area, he doesn’t want to stop them at the door. “They are customers who have been coming here for years, you do not just show them the door.” Guido is not really happy with it. “Yesterday a whole family from Belgium walked in. Then I said that that is not quite the intention.”

We are being called flat

Cheaper groceries remain in demand on our side of the border. But many Dutch people still cross the border to Belgium for beer. “We are being called by Dutch people who want to know what measures there are in our store,” said an employee of a beverage trade in the border region near Tilburg.

His beverage trade must rely mainly on customers from Tilburg and the surrounding area. Face masks are available for customers who walk into the Belgian store unprepared. “It is not moving if we have to send every customer back across the border empty-handed.”

Far from our bed

The guidelines prescribe that people who visit the province of Antwerp despite code orange, must be quarantined for two weeks upon their return. Still, not every customer stock up on booze for weeks.

“It really feels like a far-from-our-bed show for us,” explains the employee who likes to remain anonymous. “The city of Antwerp is the main source of fire. Here with us there are hardly any infections.”

That feeling seems to be the deciding factor for many people to keep crossing the border. The quarantine measure that should follow afterwards is, according to people who have to cross the border for work.

For example, Nicolien Kroon could present the weather forecast, ‘but then I must first be quarantined for two weeks to be able to enter the studio’. “And after a night at home I can start all over again.

Don’t experience it again

Border control, such as during the start of the corona crisis, goes too far for Guido of the Dutch supermarket. “Although it can be controlled much better. Now people just do what they feel like.”

The beverage trade near the border near Tilburg literally looked at a border check last time. “I don’t want to experience that again,” said one of the sellers. “A disaster for the trade. I would rather have measures taken for the real fires than to hit an entire province.”

Vital appeal

Nicolien Kroon now has plenty of time to view the corona figures. “And then it is really crazy what is happening now. If you compare the number of infections in the municipality where I live against those of, for example, Amsterdam or Rotterdam, things are going worse there.”

“And that while a mask is mandatory here and we even have a curfew.” Yet she will remain on the other side of the border for the time being. “An exception is unfortunately not possible because of my profession. It is therefore hoped that the number of infections will drop again soon. Because no matter how nice the weather here in Belgium, I would like to return to work.”


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